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From a mezzotint by Bland, after the painting by John Russell, R.A., 1773 


FOUR VOLUMES, in 1746, 1748, 1750, and 1760 (Fourth Edition, 1787) 




WORKS, 177! 



(Master of Queen's College, University of Melbourne) 









FROM 1846 TO 1884 


You have nothing to do but to save souls ; 
Therefore spend and be spent in this work. 


It is remarkable that though John Wesley's Four Volumes of 
Sermons are part of the standard of Methodist doctrine, and have 
to be read and approved by all our ministers, no edition of them 
with annotations has hitherto been issued. I have endeavoured 
to supply this lack. 

The text has been founded on Thomas Jackson's revised and 
corrected edition of 1825, for which he received the special thanks 
of the Conference. In its Preface he says, ' Copies of the most 
authentic editions of Mr. Wesley's Sermons, printed in his lifetime, 
have been carefully collated throughout . and every effort has been 
made to present an edition at once complete and correct.' A 
comparison of Jackson's volumes with the earlier editions, especially 
with the fourth, issued in 1787-8, proves that Jackson took the 
latter as the basis of his text, and not the edition of the Sermons 
published as part of the Works in 1771. This is somewhat strange, 
as he was responsible for the statement that the number of Standard 
Sermons was fifty-three and that they were those contained in the 
1771 edition (see below, vol. ii, p. 336). Stranger still is the fact 
that in the third edition of the Works, published under Jackson's 
supervision in 1829, the less correct 1771 text was reverted to, and 
has been used ever since. The most important insertions and 
alterations now made are enclosed in square brackets, and will be 
found as follows : Vol. I, pp. 41, 43, 45, 46, 48, 51, 62, 63, 72, 
77, 80, 100, 123, 207, 285, 289, 294, 360, 456, 519 ; Vol. II, 20, 
32, 185, 248, 359, 517, 518, 520. In this matter Mr. A. Wallington 
has rendered me valuable service in comparing the various editions. 
The notes include — 

(1) Some account of the occasion of the first preaching of each 
sermon, as far as that could be ascertained from the Journal and 
other sources , 

(2) An attempt to show the relation of Wesley's teaching to 
more modern developments of theology ; 


8 Preface 

(3) Corrections of his exegesis, where the progress of biblical 
study has made them necessary ; 

(4) Identification of the many quotations from classical and 
English literature which occur in the Sermons ; 

(5) Occasional interpretations of words and usages which have 
become more or less obsolete. 

(6) Some indication of the development of Wesley's own views, 
as shown by differences between the earlier and later sermons. 

I am solely responsible for the opinions expressed, and I need 
hardly say that they have no official authority. 

My hope is that this work will attract fresh attention to these 
wonderful discourses, and cause them to be more widely read and 
studied. I have found them full of spiritual blessing and stimulus , 
and I am convinced that it will be of the greatest service to our 
beloved Church that our ministers and people should recover 
Wesley's theological standpoint, and should especially be inspired 
by his passion for souls. 

I desire to acknowledge my indebtedness, first of all, to the 
Standard edition of the Journal, and Mr. Curnock's invaluable notes 
therein contained ; and to the publications of the Wesley Historical 
Society. Then I have consulted from time to time Tyerman's 
Life of Wesley, with its excellent index , the older and more recent 
lives of Wesley ; and the various histories of Methodism. Dr. 
W. B. Pope's Theology has always been at my elbow , and Dr. 
Osborn's monumental edition of the Hymns and Poems of the 
Wesleys has helped me to identify many of the quotations. I have 
used the 1872 edition of the Collected Works, and also the 1771 
edition issued by Wesley. The collection of original editions of 
Wesley's publications in our Queen's College Library, numbering 
some 400, has of course been constantly referred to. 

E. H. S. 



General Introduction — 13 

I. The Standard Sermons (pp. 13-16) 

II. The Exact Relation of the Standards to the 
Ministry and Membership of the Methodist 
Church (pp. 17-26) 

Preface to the Sermons. ... 29 


I. Salvation by Faith . . 35 

By grace are ye saved through faith. — Eph. ii. 8. 

II. The Almost Christian . -53 

Almost thou persuadest me to be a Christian. — Acts xxvi. 28. 

III. Awake, thou that Sleepest .... 68 

Awake, thou that sleepest, and arise from the dead, and Christ 
shall give thee light. — Eph. v. 14. 

IV Scriptural Christianity ... Sy 

And they were all filled with the Holy Ghost. — Acts iv. 31. 

V Justification by Faith 112 

To him that worketh not, but believeth on Him that justifieth the 
ungodly, his faith is counted to him for righteousness. — 
Rom. iv. 5. 

VI. The Righteousness of Faith .... 131 

Moses describeth the righteousness which is of the law, That the 
man which doeth those things shall live by them t &c. — Rom. 
x. 5 -8. 


io Contents 


VII. The Way to the Kingdom .... 147 

The kingdom of God is at hand : repent ye, and believe the 
gospel. — Mark i. 15. 

VIII. The First-fruits of the Spirit . . . 162 

There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in 
Christ Jesus, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit. 
— Rom. viii. i. 

IX. The Spirit of Bondage and of Adoption 178 

Ye have not received the spirit of bondage again unto fear ; 
but ye have received the Spirit of adoption, whereby we cry, 
Abba, Father. — Rom. viii. 15. 

X. The Witness of the Spirit . 199 

The Spirit itself beareth witness with our spirit, that we are the 
children of God. — Rom. viii. 16. 

XI. The Witness of our own Spirit . . 219 

This is our rejoicing, the testimony of our conscience, that in 
simplicity and godly sincerity, not with fleshly wisdom, but 
by the grace of God, we have had our conversation in the 
world. — 2 Cor. i. 12. 

XII. The Means of Grace . 237 

Ye are gone away from Mine ordinances, and have not kept 
them. — Mai. hi. 7. 

XIII. The Circumcision of the Heart 263 

Circumcision is that of the heart, in the spirit, and not in the 
letter. — Rom. ii. 29. 

XIV The Marks of the New Birth 280 

So is every one that is born of the Spirit. — John iii. 8. 

XV The Great Privilege of those that are 

Born of God .... 298 

Whosoever is born of God doth not commit sin. — i John iii. 9. 

Contents n 


XVI. Sermon on the Mount— i . . . 315 

And seeing the multitudes, He went up into a mountain ; and 
when He was set, His disciples came unto Him ; <&>c. — 
Matt. v. 1-4. 

XVII. Sermon on the Mount— ii . . . .335 

Blessed are the meek i &c. — Matt. v. 5-7. 

XVIII. Sermon on the Mount— hi . . » . 356 

Blessed are the pure in heart : &c. — Matt. v. 8-12. 

XIX. Sermon on the Mount— iv. . . . 378 

Ye are the salt of the earth ; 6-c. — Matt. v. 13-16. 

XX. Sermon on the Mount— v . . . . 398 

Think not that I am come to destroy the Law, or the 
Prophets ; I am not come to destroy : &>c. — Matt. v. 

XXI. Sermon on the Mount— vi. . . .423 

Take heed that ye do not your alms before men, to be seen 
of them ! &-c. — Matt. vi. 1-15. 

XXII. Sermon on the Mount— vii . . • 44§ 

Moreover when ye fast, be not, as the hypocrites, of a sad 
countenance t &c. — Matt. vi. 16-18. 

XXIII. Sermon on the Mount— viii . . . 47 1 

Lay not up for yourselves treasures upon earth, where moth 
and rust doth corrupt : &c— Matt. vi. 19-23- 

XXIV Sermon on the Mount— ix . 495 

No man can serve two masters : for either he will hate the 
one, and love the other t &c. — Matt. vi. 24-34. 

XXV Sermon on the Mount— x . . . • 5*7 

Judge not, that ye be not judged t &c. — Matt. vii. 1-12. 

XXVI. Sermon on the Mount— xi . . • 532 

Enter ye in at the strait gate : &-c. — Matt. vii. 13, 14. 
































XLV 1 1 
































































The numbers of the non-standard Sermons are printed in italics. 



John Wesley published four volumes of Sermons, dated respec- 
tively 1746, 1748, 1750, and 1760. In 1763 he prepared a Model 
Deed for his preaching-houses, in which it was provided that persons 
appointed by the Conference should ' have and enjoy the premises ' 
only on condition ' that the said persons preach no other doctrine 
than is contained in Mr. Wesley's Notes upon the New Testament, 
and four volumes of sermons.' This clause must necessarily refer 
to the four volumes already published. In a second undated 
edition of the 1750 volume a sermon is added on ' Wandering 
Thoughts,' bringing the total number up to forty-four. In 1771 
he published an edition of his collected Works, the first four volumes 
of which contained the above forty-four sermons (including ' Wan- 
dering Thoughts ') and nine others, viz. : 

XI. The Witness of the Spirit — Discourse II dated 1767 

XIII. On Sin in Believers . . 1763 

XIV The Repentance of Believers ,, 1767 

XV The Great Assize . „ 1758 

XX. The Lord our Righteousness , 1765 

XLIII. The Scripture Way of Salvation ,, 1765 

LI. The Good Steward . ,, 1768 

LIT The Reformation of Manners . ,, 1763 

LIII. On the Death of Mr. Whitefield . . „ 1770 

This makes a total of fifty- three. 1 

In 1787-8 an edition in eight volumes was published, the first 
four of which were identical with the volumes of 1746, 1748, 1750, 
and 1760, including the sermon on ' Wandering Thoughts ' ; but did 
not contain the nine sermons added in the edition of 1771. After 
1787 the form of the words in the Model Deed was altered to ' the 
first four volumes of sermons.' The text of the present Model Deed 

1 In the present work the above toLlII respectively. This numera- 
nine sermons are placed after the tion is followed throughout. See 
forty- four, and are numbered XLV table opposite. 


14 Introduction 

makes the standard to be ' what is contained in certain Notes on 
the New Testament, commonly reputed to be the Notes of the 
said John Wesley, and the First Four Volumes of Sermons 

commonly reputed to be written and published by him. ' 

For a long time it was assumed that the Fifty-three sermons in 
the first four volumes of the Works were intended ; but the question 
was raised by the Rev. R. Green in 1894 as to which sermons really 
constituted the Standard ; and after obtaining Counsel's opinion, 
the Conference of 1914 placed on record that the phrase in the 
Model Deed applies to the first four volumes of Wesley's Sermons, 
published in eight volumes in 1787-8 ; and that the total number 
of sermons is forty-four. The case submitted to Counsel, and the 
opinion of Mr. Owen Thompson, are given below, Vol. II, pp. 331-40. 

The legal position is now therefore settled ; but it is interesting 
to inquire why Wesley introduced the nine additional sermons 
in the 1771 edition. That he reverted to the original editions in 
the four volumes of 1787-8 only shows that he realized the legal 
difficulty that would have arisen had he changed the standard 
of doctrine set out in the deeds executed before 177 1 ; not that he 
had changed his mind as to the importance of the added sermons. 
Why then did he add them ? In the preface to the 177 1 Works 
(I quote here and elsewhere from a copy of the original edition 
presented to the Library of our Theological Hall in Melbourne 
by the late Dr. Osborn in 1870), par. 2, he says ' I wanted to 
methodize these tracts, to range them under proper heads, placing 
those together which were on similar subjects and in such order 
that one might illustrate another. This it is easy to see may be 
of use to the serious reader, who will then readily observe that there 
is scarce any subject of importance, either in practical or 
controversial divinity, which is not treated of more or less, either 
professedly or occasionally.' His aims were thus elucidation and 
completeness of presentation. He knew that the previous four 
volumes formed part of the legal standard of doctrine for his 
preachers ; and he could not alter that without creating difficulties. 
Moreover, he had already said in the preface to the volume of 1746, 
' I am not conscious that there is any one point of doctrine, on which 
I am accustomed to speak in public, which is not here, incidentally, 
if not professedly, laid before every Christian reader.' But the 
twenty-five years which had passed since their first publication 
had brought out certain objections, and certain new proofs, in 
regard to doctrines dealt with in the first editions ; and there was 

Introduction 15 

no reason why he should not in this 1771 edition — which he might 
reasonably expect to be the last, seeing that he was now in his 
sixty-eighth year — introduce in their proper place additional 
sermons, not as changing the standard, but as making clearer and 
more explicit what was already there. Hence he inserted after 
the first sermon on the Witness of the Spirit a second discourse 
on the same subject. Time had shown it to be ' a grand part of 
the testimony which God has given ' to the Methodists ; the 
experience of a great multitude had confirmed its truth ; the 
preaching of it had aroused violent and determined opposition ; 
and there had been some dangerous misunderstandings as to its 
meaning. These points jirejdl dealt with in the jecond discourse. 
The strong teaching of No. XI, in which it might seenTto Be argued 
that no one who ever committed sin could be called a Christian, 
needed some qualification ; and at its conclusion in the 177 1 edition 
Wesley says, ' It may easily be observed that the preceding discourse 
describes the experience of those that are strong in iaith. But 
hereby those that are weak in faith may be discouraged to prevent 
which the following discourse may be of use.' Then is added 
No. XLVI, on Sin in Believers, and No. XLVII, on The Repentance 
of Believers, which is the natural corollary of No. XLVI. There 
was no sermon in the original forty-four treating explicitly of the 
Last Judgement ; hence is inserted for the sake of completeness 
No. XLVIII, The Great Assize. The next addition to the original 
list is No. XLlX7Ttertad~our ""Righteousness, which is inserted, 
as pars. 6-9 declare, to show the consistency of Wesley's teaching 
in 1765 with all that he has said ' for near eight-and-twenty years ' , 
and to make clear his attitude towards the Mystics, Quakers, 
Presbyterians, and Independents , and specifically towards Law, 
Barclay, and Taylor (par. 16). No. L, The Scripture Way of Salva- 
tion, is on the old topic of Justification by Faith ; but it is especially 
intended to vindicate Wesley from the charge which ' has been 
roundly and vehemently affirmed for these five-and-twenty years ' 
that he taught sanctification by works (par. iii. 3). In the fourth 
volume of the Works, after including the remaining sermons of 
the 1760 edition, and the tracts which there follow, he found that 
he had still about 80 pages to fill, in order to make the volume 
uniform in size with the first three, which have respectively 350, 
354, and 355 pages , he therefore inserted after the sermons and 
before the tracts, three sermons preached on special occasions, 
Nos. LI, LII, and LIII, which bring the number of pages up to 353. 

i6 Introduction 

A similar consideration serves to show why the Great Assize sermon 
was placed where it stands (No. XV in the first volume). Wesley 
wished to make the volumes in the Works correspond, as closely 
as he could, with the four volumes previously published. Now 
the second volume (of 1748) begins with the sermon preached at 
St. Mary's, Oxford, on The Circumcision of the Heart on January 1, 
1733, ^ tne nrst na( * beg 1 " 1 w i tn tne Oxford sermon on Salvation 
by Faith ; and it includes exactly the sermons in the second volume 
of the Works, excepting No. XLIX, The Lord our Righteousness. 
Unless The Circumcision of the Heart were put into the first volume, 
or some other sermon added in its place, the first volume would 
have been twenty-four pages short, in comparison with the remaining 
three ; by inserting The Great Assize in Vol. I, the pages are made 
up to 350 , and The Circumcision of the Heart is retained as the 
first in Vol. II. The insertion of No. L (The Scripture Way of 
Salvation) in Vol. Ill of the 177 1 edition is to be accounted for 
in the same way ; it brings Vol. Ill up to 355 pages. 
Our conclusion, therefore, is — 

(1) Nos. LI, LII, and LIII have nothing to do with the Standard 
of Doctrine : 

(2) Nos. XLVI and XLVII are intended as a qualification of 
the teaching of No. XI, and whilst not part of the Standard, are 
important as an authoritative interpretation of No. XI ; and No. 
XLV stands in the same relation to No. X. 

(3) No. XLVIII is not an addition to the Standard of Doctrine ; 
for its teaching is quite clearly contained in the Notes on the New 
Testament ; but it is intended to secure that the doctrine of the Last 
Things shall be definitely recognized as part of Wesley's teaching. 

(4) Nos. XLIX and L are intended to show that Wesley had 
not changed his views during the twenty-five years since the publica- 
tion of the first volume of the Sermons on the questions therein 

Therefore, whilst I fully concur in the decision of the Conference 
of 1914, 1 have thought it best to include all the fifty-three sermons 
in the 177 1 edition : the earlier additions because they help to 
interpret the Standard Sermons , and the last three, partly for the 
sake of completeness, and partly for the special interest of the 
occasions on which they were preached. 

The Forty-four Sermons are given below in the order in which they 
appeared in the volumes of 1746, 1748, 1750, and 1760, and the 
remaining nine are placed at the end, and renumbered accordingly. 

Introduction 17 





Methodism had originally no doctrinal test (except by implication) 
for church, or rather, society membership. ' There is only one 
condition previously required in those who desire admission into 
these societies, viz. : "a desire to flee from the wrath to come, 
to be saved from their sins," ' and this is to be proved by their 
avoiding evil, doing good, and attending upon the ordinances of 
God. As regards our members, therefore, no doctrinal test is 
imposed, save in so far as a desire to be saved from sin and the 
wrath to come, and a saving faith in Jesus Christ, imply certain 
doctrinal beliefs. But for our ministers, local preachers, and 
office-bearers certain doctrinal tests are prescribed, and these are 
safeguarded, first, by the trustees of the churches, second, by the 
Conference and its subordinate courts, and, third, by the conscience 
of the individual concerned. 

First, then, as to the powers and duties of trustees. The doctrinal 
standard to which every minister of the Methodist Church is required 
to conform is legally defined in the Model Deed as follows : ' No 
person or persons whomsoever shall be permitted to preach 

who shall maintain, promulgate, or teach any doctrine or 
practice contrary to what is contained in certain Note s on the 
New Testament, commonly reputed to be the notes of the said 
JoErT Wesley, and in~*the first four volumes of sermons commonly 
reputed to be written ancT published by him.' This formula goes 
"back to the original Model Deed prepared by Wesley and incorpor- 
ated by him in the Large Minutes, where the words run : ' Provided 
always that the said persons preach no other doctrine than is con- 
tained in Mr. Wesley's Notes upon the New Testament and four 
volumes of sermons.' Consequently it is one of the duties of 
trustees ' to permit no person to preach or conduct worship on the 
trust property who maintains, promulgates, or teaches any doctrine 
or practice contrary to what is contained in John Wesley's Notes 
on the New Testament, and in the first four volumes 1 of his 
sermons as at present published.' 

So far the position is clear. No minister or local preacher can 

1 Now, as decided in 1914, forty-four sermons. 

18 Introduction 

legally preach any doctrine contrary to the Notes and Sermons 
(hereinafter referred to as the Standards). No ques tion is raised 
as to his r^ersonal belief ; so far as the Model Deed is concerned, 
TTe may believe whaFEe likes, provided he does not preach anything 
contrary to the Standards, and he is at perfect liberty to preach 
new doctrines, provided they are not contrary to the Standards. 
As to whether he violates this condition or not, the trustees of the 
churches are judges, and it is obvious that no further power could 
reasonably be given to them. They cannot exclude any one from 
the pulpit on suspicion or even on certainty that he is not orthodox 
in his belief. They can only jud ge by what he sa ys in the pulpit, 
and if that is not contrary to the St^uidards^ jthey. .cannot_take ajr^ 

""""The Conference, however, must, and does, go further than this. 
Every candidate for the ministry must be certified by the superin- 
tendent who proposes him that he ' has read and approves ' the 
Stanplards. Before ordination he is required ' to pass an oral 
Theological examination, including his acquaintance with Wesley's 
works, especially the first fifty-three l Sermons and the Notes on 

the New Testament,' and, further,~ r To~be examined as to~ "his 

belieTnTthe "doctrines of the Church, and to promise that if his 
views of doctrine change he will quietly retire from the ministry/ 
At his ordination he is asked two doctrinal questions — (i) ' Are 
you persuaded that the Holy Scriptures contain sufficiently all 
doctrine required of necessity for eternal salvation through faith 
of Jesus Christ ? and are you determined to teach nothing as 
required of necessity to eternal salvation but that which you shall 
be persuaded may be concluded and proved by the Scripture ? ' 
(2) ' I have further to inquire whether you have read the first four 
volumes of Mr. Wesley's Sermons and his Notes on the New Testa- 
ment, and whether you believe that the system of doctrine therein 
contained is in accordance with the Holy Scriptures. ' Subsequently 
every minister must answer for himself the question asked annually 
at the District Synod, ' Does he believe and preach our doctrines ? ' 
It will be observed, however, that no law is laid down as to what 
action the Conference shall take in case the answers to any of 
these questions are in the negative. As the law stands no candidate 
can be brought forward who does not ' approve ' the Standards ; 
subsequently inquiry is made annually as to his belief in them, 
but it is nowhere said that the Conference must remove him from 

1 Ibid. 



the ministry if his answers are in the negative ; it has apparently 
full power to deal with each case as it may judge best, provided, 
always, that the legal requirement of the Model Deed is not violated. 
At the same time the onus of responsibility is laid upon each 
individual by his promise that if he changes his views of doctrine 
he will quietly retire. If, therefore, a minister is clear that his 
view of any doctrine is contrary to that contained in the Standards, 
he is bound by his promise to resign, though it would apparently 
be competent for the Conference to decline to accept his resignation. 
If, however, his views change, but in such a way that he still believes 
them to be not contrary to the Standards, he is not bound to resign, 
though it is in the power of the Conference to examine into his 
views and to act upon its own judgement accordingly. 

The two important questions therefore to determine are : (i) 
What exactly are the doctrines taught in the Standards in which 
belief is obligatory ? and (2) what is meant by a belief being 
' contrary to the Standards ' ? 

As to the first point, the phrases used vary ; the candidate must 
approve the Standards , the man who is to be ordained is asked 
whether he believes that the system of doctrine contained in them 
is in accordance with the Holy Scripture which he has just declared 
to contain all doctrine required of necessity for eternal salvation ; 
the ordained minister is asked whether he believes ' our doctrines ' ', 
and it must be presumed that these various phrases — ' the doctrine 
contained in ' the Standards, ' the system of doctrine contained in 
the Standards,' ' our doctrines ' — were intended to be practically 
synonymous, and each phrase must be allowed to throw light upon 
the others. The second phrase shows that it is the system of 
doctrine in the Standards, not isolated statements to be found in 
them, that is intended ; and the third phrase, which Wesley con- 
stantly used — ■' our doctrines ' — is defined in the original edition 
of the Large Minutes under question 59 (' What can be done in 
order to the future union of the Methodists ? '), where Wesley 
suggests that all the ministers should sign an agreement ' to preach 
the old Methodist doctrines, and no other, contained in the Minutes 
of the Conference.' Reference to the Minutes shows that these 
doctrines are justification by faith, entire sanctification, the atone^ 
ment of our Lord, assurance of pardon by t he witn ess of the Spirit, 
tne impossibility of a sincere seeker after the Truth_ being lost, 
anci free grace as opposed to predestinarianism. 

The eternal punishment of the finally impenitent is also affirmed, 

20 Introduction 

but it is expressly stated that it only applies to those who have\ 
heard the Gospel. The phrase ' our doctrines,' therefore, does not 
mean the whole round of Christian orthodoxy, but specifically the 
doctrines concerned with sin and salvation t _Y^j§Ermax Eeic[ out th e 
~~early 'Methodists. ~ And this is the system of doctrine contained in 
^ThTsermonsT asa study of their titles at once demonstrates. Other 
doctrines are incidentally mentioned, but only these are system- 
atically treated, and it was of these and no others that Wesley was 
thinking when he demanded from his helpers that they should 
believe and preach ' our doctrines. ' He would never have described 
the Thirty-nine Articles as ' our ' doctrines ; they contain the 
doctrines of the Church of England, and Wesley, of course, accepted 
them himself ; but by ' our ' doctrines he meant the Methodist 
teaching peculiar to himself and his followers at th&_t.time in regard _ 
to salvation by faith and Christian holiness. That this is so is shown 
"By the fact that two questions are asked in the Ordination Service , 
if the second question had been intended to cover the whole ground 
of the Christian faith, it would be unnecessary to ask the first as 
well. But the inspiration and sufficiency of Scripture is not a 
specifically Methodist doctrine ; it belongs to the whole Protestant 
Church ; and so the question on the system of doctrine in the 
Standards does not include it, and it is therefore separately asked. 
' Our main doctrines,' says Wesley, ' which include all the rest, are 
repentance, faith, and holiness. The first of these we account, as 
it were, the porch of religion ; the next, the door ; the third, 
religion itself.' As Dr. Fitchett, in his chapter on ' The Effective 
Doctrines of Methodism,' * has said, ' The enduring controversies 
which have torn asunder the Christian Church lie in what may be 
called the realm of metaphysical theology. And the working 
theology of Methodism, since it is supremely occupied with a great 
cluster of evangelical doctrines, has escaped these controversies.' 
John Wesley was a Pragmatist before Professor James had 
popularized that term. ,r HiTtIieology s ' if I may again quote Dr. 
Fitchett, ' is one which links doctrine to conduct. It has the salt 
of reality. Here are doctrines realized in human experience and 
tested by that experience. ' ' Our ' doctrines include no such 
metaphysical theory of the Trinity as is embodied in the Athanasian 
Creed. ' I dare not insist,' says Wesley in his sermon on the Trinity, 
' upon any one's using the word Trinity or Person. I use them 
myself because I know of none better, but if any man has any 

1 Wesley and his Century, pp. 423-34. 

Introduction 21 

scruple concerning them, who shall constrain him to use them f\ 
I cannot.' The fact of original sin Wesley strongly maintains, I 
but he expressly disclaims any specific theory about it. 'It is 1 
quite beyond my understanding ; it is a depth which I cannot 
fathom.' And, again, ' Some have attempted to explain this 
intricate affair. I do not commend their wisdom. I do not j 
attempt to explain even how I at this moment stretch out my hand 
or move my finger.' And in the same paragraph is a profound 
sentence, applying to much more than this particular doctrine : 
' Our perception of truth cannot be false ; our understanding or 
apprehension of things may.' As to the misleading connotation 
of the phrase ' total ' depravity, he says (Minutes, 1745) : ' How 
can we maintain that all works done before we have a sense of the 
pardoning love of God are sin, and as such an abomination to 
Him ? The works of him who has heard the Gospel and does not 
believe are not done as God hath willed and commanded them to 
be done. And yet we know not how to say that they are an abomi- 
nation to the Lord in him who feareth God, and from that principle 
does the best he can. ' The fact of the atonement shines luminously 
in every sermon ; but there is no attempt to frame a systematic 
theory even of this great central truth. There is no theory of the 
hypostatic union of the two natures in our Lord, though the facts 
of His true deity and perfect manhood are definitely taught. 

Every one knows Wesley's profession that he was homo unius 
libri — ' ^man of one .booJsL ' ; but, as Dr Fit chett has 'pointed out 
"Th the chapter above referred to, ' Methodism is committed to no 
special theory as to the inspiration of Scripture.' Indeed, Wesley 
was a critic, both higher and lower, before those much misunder- 
stood terms were invented. In the preface to the Notes on the 
New Testament he says : ' Those various readings which have a 
vast majority of ancient copies and translations on their side, I 
have without scruple incorporated with the text ; which I have 
divided all along according to the matter it contains.' In his 
preface to the Notes on the Old Testament he declares it to be his 
purpose ' to give the direct literal meaning of every verse, of every 
sentence, and, as far as I am able, of every word in the oracles of 
God. My intention is to make men think and assist them in j 
thinking.' And in the preface to the Book of Joshua he states' 
almost exactly the modern critical view : ' These books (Joshua to . 
Esther) were probably collections of the authentic records of the 
nation which some of the prophets were divinely directed and 

22 Introduction 

assisted to put together. It seems the substance of the several 
histories was written under divine direction when the events had 
just happened, and long after put into the form wherein they stand 
now, perhaps all by the same hand.' His suggestion that these 
books may not have taken their present form until after the time 
of Ahasuerus (the Greek Xerxes) goes as far as anything that the 
modern critics have suggested. But it is at least clear that the 
documentary theory of the origin of these books was the one which 
he adopted. 

As to the subject of the final doom of the impenitent, he repeats 
and applies with the utmost earnestness the Scriptural doctrine 
of eternal punishment ; but he expressly says in one of his latest 
sermons (on Living without God) : ' I do not conceive that any 
man living has a right to sentence all the heathen and Mahometan 
world to damnation. ' And again : ' I believe the merciful God 
regards the lives and tempers of men more than their ideas. I 
believe He respects the goodness of the heart rather than the 
clearness of the head , and that if the heart of a man be filled with 
the humble, gentle, patient love of God and man, God will not cast 
him into everlasting fire because his ideas are not clear or because I 
his conceptions are confused.' / 

This was the state of the case at Wesley's death ; every candidate 
for the ministry was required to satisfy the Conference as to 
his belief in Methodist doctrine , but after he had been once 
received into full connexion, no further inquiry was made unless 
some charge of failure in orthodoxy was brought against him. 
But at the Conference of 1812 it was directed that at the annual 
District Meeting certain questions should be asked in regard to 
each minister ; amongst them being this, ' Does he believe and 
preach our doctrines ? ' and in the year 18 14 the Conference, feeling 
the need of more exact definition, made a list of the doctrines to 
which the ' unequivocal assent ' of every candidate for ordination 
is required. ' A Trinity of Persons in the unity of the Godhead ; 
the total depravity of all men by nature in consequence of Adam's 
fall , the atonement made by Christ for the sins of all the human 
race . justification by faith ; the absolute necessity of holiness 
both in heart and life , the direct witness of the Spirit ; and the 
proper eternity of future rewards and punishments.' And in 1827, 
in consequence of Dr. Adam Clarke's teaching in his Commentary, 
the doctrine of the Eternal Sonship of Christ was added to the list, 
and it was directed that every candidate for ordination should be 

Introduction 23 

expressly examined on this point, in spite of Dr. Clarke's protest. 
' Such tests of church fellowship and ministerial communion,' he 
said, ' never disgraced Methodism until now. Mr. Wesley would 
have abhorred such, as he would have abhorred the devil, whatever 
attachment he might have had to the general sense of the doctrine. ' 
However, the resolution was passed, and has never been repealed. 
It was an unfortunate step, taken in a moment of panic, which 
happily has had no successors, and, I trust, never will. 
The actual law. then, is as follows : 

(1) Negatively, that it is illegal for any one, minister or layman, 
to preach in our pulpits any doctrine contrary to the Standards. 

(2) Positively, that every minister shall be asked annually 
whether he believes and preaches our doctrines, the meaning and 
content of that somewhat vague expression being determined by 
Wesley's usage and by the list above quoted from the Minutes of 
1814, plus the Doctrine of the Eternal Sonship of our Lord. 

(3) That the procedure to be taken in the event of a negative 
answer to that question is nowhere determined by our laws, but is 
left in the hands of the Conference. 

(4) That any minister who changes his views on doctrine, 
presumably in such a way that his new views are contrary to the 
Standards, is bound by his promise given before his ordination 
quietly to retire. 

It is necessary now to inquire what is intended by a doctrine 
' contrary ' to the Standards. We must carefully distinguish 
between ' difference ' and ' contrariety.' Things may be different 
without being contrary. The flower is different from the bud, but 
not contrary to it. The man is different from the child, but not 
contrary to him. And so our statements, even of the peculiar 
Methodist doctrines, may be different from, without being contrary 
to, John Wesley's. There is a development in doctrine as well as 
in life , indeed, life without development, whether in Nature or in 
thought, is inconceivable. For example, the wonderfully enlight- 
ening theory of the Atonement worked out in Dr. Scott Lidgett's 
Fernley Lecture 1 is different from any view that is formulated by 
Wesley ; but it is a development, not a contradiction, of Wesley's 
teaching. Similarly, the view of eternal punishment which 
eliminates from it the idea of physical torture differs from that 
suggested in the Standards, but does not contradict it. The 
essential deity of our Lord is not contradicted when the voluntary 

1 The Spiritual Principle of the Atonement, 1897. 

24 Introduction 

limitations which His humanity imposed upon Him are emphasized 
more strongly than they are in Wesley's writings. 

To deny the legitimacy of such developments is to take our 
stand with Pius X and the encyclical named with unconscious 
irony Pascendi gregis ; we cannot allow that the development of 
theology ceased with John Wesley, any more than with that prince 
of theologians, St. Thomas Aquinas. To think such a thing 
possible comes perilously near to blasphemy against the Holy 
Spirit, who has been given to guide the Church into all truth, and 
assuredly did not close His work in 179 1 when Wesley died. For 
this sin there is no forgiveness ; the Church that finalizes its doctrines\ 
at any point in its history has sealed its own death-warrant. / 

That Wesley would never have dreamed of blocking by the 
dead hand of his personal authority all future developments in 
theology is clear from his own definite statement in the preface 
to the Sermons ' But some may say, I have mistaken the way 
myself, although I take upon me to teach it to others. It is very 
possible that I have. But I trust, whereinsoever I have been 
mistaken, my mind is open to conviction. I sincerely desire to 
be better informed. ' This is not the language of a man who believes 
that he has finalized the truth, or who would desire to impose his 
own conclusions as infallible and unchangeable upon the whole 
future Church. 

So far I have been dealing purely with what may be called 
' Statute Law.' But evidently this law needs some authoritative 
interpretation ; for many questions may reasonably be raised as 
to its precise meaning. Now, such interpretation can only be 
given by the supreme court of the Church, and, just as the common 
law of England is absolutely authoritative as an interpretation 
by the courts of the meaning of the Acts of Parliament, so the 
decisions of our Supreme Doctrinal Court, the British Wesleyan 
Conference, must govern our interpretation of our Standards of 

Such decisions may be given explicitly, when a charge of want 
of orthodoxy is made against some minister ; as e.g. in the case of 
Dr. Adam Clarke in 1827 (a summary of all such decisions of Confer- 
ence would be a valuable addition to our Methodist literature) ; 
or implicitly, by publication in such a series as the Fernley Lectures ; 
or by failure to institute proceedings against a minister whose 
published views do not accord with the hitherto usual interpreta- 
tions of our doctrines. 

Introduction 25 

Finally, it is of interest to determine precisely what power the 
Conference has to deal with our Standards of Doctrine. It could 
not, without an Act of Parliament, alter the provisions of the 
Model Deed, or permit any doctrine contrary to the Standards 
to be preached in our pulpits. It has, however, power to define 
what our doctrines are, as was done in 1814 ; and to decide whether 
any specific doctrine is or is not contrary to the Standards. It 
has also full power to determine its own action in the case of any 
minister who does not believe and preach our doctrines, or any 
one of them , save that it cannot permit him to preach any doctrine 
ruled to be contrary to the Standards in any of our trust properties. 
Assuming that the Conference ruled that a given doctrine was not 
so contrary, and any body of trustees disagreed with that ruling, the 
ultimate decision would rest with the Courts of Law, and finally 
with the House of Lords. 

Methodism, then, has on the one hand a very definite body of 
doctrines to which she rejoices to be bound. ' It asserts the liberty 
of the moral agent, and indicates the spiritual nature and essential 
royalty of man. It is very clear as to the atoning work of Christ 
and the office and work of the Spirit ; it insists on the necessity 
of personal holiness, and holds out the possibility of a victory over 
the apostate nature by affirming a sanctification which is entire, 
and a perfection in love which is not ultimate and final, but pro- 
gressive in its development for ever. It looks on man as utterly 
lost on account of sin. But warm and generous as the sunlight of 
God, it looks every man in the face, and says, " Christ died for 
you." It preaches the glad news that to every believer in Christ 
the invited Spirit will come and enthrone Himself in the heart as a 
witness of Sonship and the living Comforter. It preaches the 
dreadful truth of eternal punishment, and warns men to flee from 
the wrath to come ; and it makes known the everlasting blessedness 
of those who fight the good fight of faith, and obtain the crown 
of righteousness.' To this eloquent summary given by Rev. 
Charles H. Kelly x I need not add a word. 

On the other hand, the utmost freedom of thought is granted 
to us on subjects which, however important, do not essentially 
touch these vital doctrines. To quote a witty American Bishop, 
we do not believe that no one can enter the kingdom of God except 
through the mouth of Jonah's whale ; nor do we hold that the 
fact that our fathers looked at things with their own eyes binds 

Wesley, the Man, his Teaching, and his Work, p. 15. 

26 Introduction 

us never to look at them with ours. I am bold to affirm that no 
Church combines so happily security as to the essential doctrines 
of salvation with liberty of thought as to all questions of speculative 
theology. ' In this age of intellectual daring,' to quote from 
Dr. Clifford's address at the Wesley Centenary celebrations, ' we 
must not alienate the young mind by mental cowardice.' We 
must on occasion be ready to give sympathy and guidance to our 
young people, who are disturbed and perplexed by the discussions 
which they find in every newspaper and magazine. But the main 
part of our ministry we shall be wise to devote to those great 
doctrines of sin and salvation by which men live. Let us never 
forget that we are set in the Church ' for the perfecting of the saints, 
for the work of ministering, for the building up of the body of Christ, 
till we all attain unto the unity of the faith and of the knowledge 
of the Son of God, unto a full-grown man, unto the measure of the 
stature of the fullness of Christ.' 


O N 

Several Occafions : 

I N 


B Y 


Fellow of Lincoln-College > Oxford. 

VOL. I. 


Printed by W. Strahan: And fold by 
T. Trye, near Gray-s-Inn Gate, Holbourn; 
and at the Foundery, near Upper Moorfields. 

Facsimile of Titlepage to First Edition. 

In Wesley's proposals for printing three volumes of 
Sermons by subscription dated September 7, 1745, the 
price is fixed at 2s. 6d. each volume ' in quires.' He hopes 
that the first volume will be in the press by Michaelmas, 
and delivered to subscribers by or before Christmas. 

The volume is dated 1746. It is i2mo, pp. xii, 250. 
It has no Table of Contents or Index, but has 12 Sermons 
(Nos. I-XII) and a list of ' Books published by Mr. John 
and Charles Wesley' which fills two pages and contains 
seventy items, the last of which is ' Sermons on Several 
Occasions,' vol. I, price 2s. 6d. 

Second Edition, London : W. Bowyer, 1754 {identical 
with first edition); Third, Bristol: W. Pine, 1769; 
Fourth, Paramore, 1787 ; Fifth, 1796. 


i. The following Sermons contain the substance of what I 
have been preaching for between eight and nine years last past. 
During that time I have frequently spoken in public, on every 
subject in the ensuing collection , and I am not conscious that 
there is any one point of doctrine, on which I am accustomed 
to speak in public, which is not here, incidentally, if not profes- 
sedly, laid before every Christian reader. Every serious man 
who peruses these will therefore see, in the clearest manner, 
what these doctrines are which I embrace and teach as the 
essentials of true religion. 

2. But I am thoroughly sensible, these are not proposed in 
such a manner as some may expect. Nothing here appears 
in an elaborate, elegant, or oratorical dress. If it had been 

Par. i . This preface appears in the 
1746 volume of the Sermons ; the 
' eight or nine years last past ' cover 
the period since Wesley's conversion 
in 1738. It is to be noticed that 
these sermons were written in order 
to be preached ; not in the first in- 
stance with a view to publication. 
A study of the texts fecorded in the 
Journal, and of the Sermon List ap- 
pended to the Standard Edition of 
the Journal by Mr. Curnock, shows 
that the majority of them were actu- 
ally preached, some of them many 
times. Methodism is the only branch 
of the Christian Church which bases 
its theology on preached sermons ; 
hence the emphasis which it lays 
upon the practical doctrines of re- 
ligion, and the comparatively small 
importance which it attaches to the 

more speculative and theoretical 
aspects of divine truth. 

2. Compare the following para- 
graph in The Connoisseur, August 1, 
1754, which almost suggests that the 
authors, Colman and Thornton, had 
seen this preface. It is not unlikely 
that they may have done so, for 
they were both Christ Church men, 
and could not fail to know some- 
thing of the Wesleys. ' This affec- 
tation ' (i.e. the use of long words 
and technical terms) ' is never more 
offensive than when it gets into the 
pulpit. The greater part of almost 
every audience that sits under our 
preachers are ignorant and illiterate, 
and should therefore have every- 
thing delivered to them in as plain, 
simple, and intelligible a manner as 
possible. Hard words, if they have 



Preface to the Sermons 

my desire or design to write thus, my leisure would not permit. 
But, in truth, I, at present, designed nothing less ; for I now 
write, as I generally speak, ad populum — to the bulk of man- 
kind, to those who neither relish nor understand the art of 
speaking , but who, notwithstanding, are competent judges 
of those truths which are necessary to present and future 
happiness. I mention this, that curious readers may spare 
themselves the labour of seeking for what they will not find. 

3. I design plain truth for plain people : therefore, of set 
purpose, I abstain from all nice and philosophical speculations ; 
from all perplexed and intricate reasonings , and, as far as 
possible, from even the show of learning, unless in sometimes 
citing the original Scripture. I labour to avoid all words which 
are not easy to be understood, all which are not used in common 
life ; and, in particular, those kinds of technical terms that so 
frequently occur in Bodies of Divinity , those modes of speak- 
ing which men of reading are intimately acquainted with, but 
which to common people are an unknown tongue. Yet, I am 
not assured, that I do not sometimes slide into them unawares , 
it is so extremely natural to imagine that a word which is 
familiar to ourselves is so to all the world. 

4. Nay, my design is, in some sense, to forget all that ever 
I have read in my life. I mean to speak, in the general, as if 

any meaning, can only serve to 
make them stare ; and they can 
never be edified by what they do not 
understand. Young clergymen, just 
come from the University, are proud 
of showing the world that they have 
been reading the Fathers, and are 
fond of entering on the most abstruse 
points of divinity. But they would 
employ their time more to their own 
credit, as well as the improvement 
of their hearers, if they would rather 
endeavour to explain and enforce the 
precepts of the Apostles and Evan- 
gelists, than retail the confused 
hypotheses of crabbed metaphy- 

3. ' The original Scripture,' i.e. 
the scripture in the original Greek. 

Wesley sometimes does this, but it 
is usually to justify some rendering 
or interpretation which differs from 
that of the Authorized Version. 

4. The qualifying phrases ' in some 
sense,' ' in general,' must be allowed 
their full weight. Wesley was an 
omnivorous reader. In the very 
paragraph in the letter quoted by 
him in the Journal, May 14, 1765, 
in which he says, ' In 1730 I began 
to be homo unius libri, to study 
(comparatively) no book but the 
Bible,' he mentions his indebtedness 
to Taylor's Holy Living and Law's 
Christian Perfection and Serious Call. 
In the so-called Large Minutes, pub- 
lished 1770, Question 32, he says to 
his preachers : ' 1 . Read the most 

Preface to the Sermons 31 

I had never read one author, ancient or modern (always ex- 
cepting the inspired). I am persuaded, that, on the one hand, 
this may be a means of enabling me more clearly to express 
the sentiments of my heart, while I simply follow the chain of 
my own thoughts, without entangling myself with those of 
other men , and that, on the other, I shall come with fewer 
weights upon my mind, with less of prejudice and preposses- 
sion, either to search for myself, or to deliver to others, the 
naked truths of the gospel. 

5. To candid, reasonable men, I am not afraid to lay open 
what have been the inmost thoughts of my heart. I have 
thought, I am a creature of a day, passing through life as an 
arrow through the air. I am a spirit come from God, and 
returning to God : just hovering over the great gulf , till, a 
few moments hence, I am no more seen , I drop into an un- 
changeable eternity ! I want to know one thing — the way to 
heaven , how to land safe on that happy shore. God Himself 
has condescended to teach the way , for this very end He came 

useful books, and that regularly and on the subject. This is expressed 
constantly. " But I read only also in the general Preface to the 
the Bible." Then you ought to Works (1771), par. 4 : ' In this edition 
teach others to read only the Bible, I present to serious and candid men 
and by parity of reason, to hear only my last and maturest thoughts : 
the Bible : but if so, you need preach agreeable, I hope, to Scripture, rea- 
no more. Just so said George Bell. son, and Christian antiquity.' He 
And what is the fruit ? Why, now recognizes the value of Christian ex- 
he neither reads the Bible nor any- perience, which is the living voice 
thing else. This is rank enthusiasm. of the Holy Spirit, and of the tradi- 
If you need no book but the Bible, tion of the Church ; but in complete 
you are got above St. Paul. He accordance with the Protestant view, 
wanted others too. , " Bring the he puts the Bible first ; primus inter 
books," says he, " but especially the pares, we might now be disposed to 
parchments," those wrote on parch- say ; but still primus. 
ment. " But I have no taste for Many have called attention to the 
reading." Contract a taste for it splendour of this whole paragraph, 
by use, or return to your trade.' It recalls irresistibly the speech of 
5. The concluding sentences ex- Edwin's chief, as given by Bede 
plain the meaning of the previous (Eccles. Hist. ii. 13) : ' The present 
paragraph. Wesley's method was, life of man, O King, seems to me, in 
first, to study the Bible with prayer comparison of that Time which is 
and meditation ; then to consult the unknown to us, like to a sparrow 
experience of others ; and finally, swiftly flying through the room, well 
to examine what had been written warmed with the fire made in the 


Preface to the Sermons 

from heaven. He hath written it down in a book. O give me 
that book ! At any price, give me the book of God ! I have 
it here is knowledge enough for me. Let me be homo unius 
libri. Here then I am, far from the busy ways of men. I sit 
down alone : only God is here. In His presence I open, I 
read His book , for this end, to find the way to heaven. Is 
there a doubt concerning the meaning of what I read ? Does 
anything appear dark or intricate ? I lift up my heart to the 
Father of Lights : ' Lord, is it not Thy word, " If any man 
lack wisdom, let him ask of God " ? Thou " givest liberally, 
and upbraidest not." Thou hast said, " If any be willing to do 
Thy will, he shall know." I am willing to do, let me know, Thy 
will.' I then search after and consider parallel passages of 
Scripture, ' comparing spiritual things with spiritual.' I 
meditate thereon with all the attention and earnestness of 
which my mind is capable. If any doubt still remains, I con- 
sult those who are experienced in the things of God ; and then 
the writings whereby, being dead, they yet speak. And what 
I thus learn, that I teach. 

6. I have accordingly set down in the following sermons 
what I find in the Bible concerning the way to heaven , with 
a view to distinguish this way of God from all those which are 
the inventions of men. I have endeavoured to describe the 
true, the scriptural, experimental religion, so as to omit nothing 
which is a real part thereof, and to add nothing thereto which 
is not. And herein it is more especially my desire, first, to 
guard those who are just setting their faces toward heaven (and 
who, having little acquaintance with the things of God, are the 

midst of it, while the storms of 

rain and snow prevail abroad ; the 
sparrow, I say, flying in at one door 
and immediately out at another, 
vanishes out of your sight, returning 
from one winter to another.' 

' I want to know one thing — the 
way to heaven.' This view of re- 
ligion, as being mainly concerned 
with the securing of heaven, affects 
to some extent the perspective of 
Wesley's teaching about salvation, 

as we shall see hereafter ; but it 
never interfered with his earnest de- 
sire to make life better for men here 
— mentally and physically, as well 
as spiritually. 

Homo unius libri — ' a man of one 
book.' The phrase goes back to 
the saying of St. Thomas Aquinas, 
' Cavete hominem unius libri ' ; which 
is quoted by Jeremy Taylor, where 
Wesley probably found it. 

Preface to the Sermons 33 

more liable to be turned out of the way), from formality, from 
mere outside religion, which has almost driven heart-religion 
out of the world , and, secondly, to warn those who know the 
religion of the heart, the faith which worketh by love, lest at any 
time they make void the law through faith, and so fall back into 
the snare of the devil. 

7. By the advice and at the request of some of my friends, 
I have prefixed to the other sermons contained in this volume, 
three sermons of my own, and one of my brother's, preached 
before the University of Oxford. My design required some 
discourses on those heads ; and I preferred these before any 
others, as being a stronger answer than any which can be drawn 
up now, to those who have frequently asserted that we have 
changed our doctrine of late, and do not preach now what we 
did some years ago. Any man of understanding may now 
judge for himself, when he has compared the latter with the 
former sermons. 

8. But some may say, I have mistaken the way myself, 
although I take upon me to teach it to others. It is probable 
many will think this , and it is very possible that I have. 
But I trust, whereinsoever I have mistaken, my mind is open 
to conviction. I sincerely desire to be better informed. I say 
to God and man, ' What I know not, teach thou me ! ' 

9. Are you persuaded you see more clearly than me ? It 
is not unlikely that you may. Then treat me as you would 
desire to be treated yourself upon a change of circumstances. 
Point me out a better way than I have yet known. Show me 
it is so, by plain proof of Scripture. And if I linger in the path 
I have been accustomed to tread, and am therefore unwilling 
to leave it, labour with me a little , take me by the hand, and 
lead me as I am able to bear. But be not displeased if I entreat 
you not to beat me down in order to quicken my pace : I can 
go but feebly and slowly at best ; then, I should not be able to 

8 and 9. The modesty of par. 8 his gift of humour, of which perhaps 

sufficiently vindicates Wesley from the best example is to be found in 

any intention of setting up his con- the preface to his Complete English 

elusions as the final word in theology. Dictionary. See Green's Bibliography, 

The playful irony of par. 9 illustrates No. 162. 



Preface to the Sermons 

go at all. May I not request of you, further, not to give me 
hard names, in order to bring me into the right way ? Suppose 
I were ever so much in the wrong, I doubt this would not set 
me right. Rather, it would make me run so much the farther 
from you, and so get more and more out of the way. 

10. Nay, perhaps, if you are angry, so shall I be too ; and 
then there will be small hopes of finding the truth. If oncej 
anger arise, rjvre kclttvos (as Homer somewhere expresses it),! 
this smoke will so dim the eyes of my soul, that I shall be able to) 
see nothing clearly. For God's sake, if it be possible to avoid' 
it, let us not provoke one another to wrath. Let us not kindle 
in each other this fire of hell , much less blow it up into a flame. 
If we could discern truth by that dreadful light, would it not; 
be loss, rather than gain ? For, how far is love, even with 
many wrong opinions, to be preferred before truth itself without! 
love ! We may die without the knowledge of many truths,\ 
and yet be carried into Abraham's bosom. But, if we die 
without love, what will knowledge avail ? Just as much as it 
avails the devil and his angels. 

The God of love forbid we should ever make the trial ! May 
He prepare us for the knowledge of all truth, by filling our hearts 
with all His love, and with all joy and peace in believing ! 


10. Wesley had a great admira- 
tion for Homer. In Journal, Au- 
gust 12, 1748, he says: 'What an 
amazing genius had this man, to 
write with such strength of thought 
and beauty of expression, when he 
had none to go before him ! And 
what a vein of piety runs through 
his whole work ! ' He read the 

Odyssey in September 1769, and 
thought it far better than the Iliad, 
' on all occasions recommending the 
fear of God, with justice, mercy, and 
truth.' This reference is to Iliad 
xviii. no, where Achilles says that 
X<5Xos (wrath) avdpwv iv arr7]dc<r<nv 
attjerai, tjutc kclttv6s, ' rises high in the 
breast of men, like smoke.' 


Preached at St. Mary's, Oxford^ before the University, 

on June ii, 1738 

Five of the Standard Sermons were preached in St. Mary's before 
the University of Oxford; viz. Nos. I, II, IV, and XIII by John, and 
III by Charles Wesley. The preachers were appointed from the 
various colleges in turn by the Vice-Chancellor, and all Masters of Arts 
of two or more years' standing, who were presbyters or deacons of the 
Church of England, were liable to be called upon to officiate. Wesley 
tells us (Journal, July 25, 1741) that his turn came about once in three 
years. The sermons were preached at two in the afternoon on all 
Sundays and at 10 a.m. on saints' days, except in the Long Vacation, 
and had to be delivered in English, except on certain special occasions, 
on which Latin was to be used. Notice of at least two months had 
to be given to the preacher, and he received a fee of three guineas. If 
any statement was made in the sermon contrary to the doctrine or 
discipline of the Church of England, the Vice-Chancellor had authority 
to demand a copy of the sermon, which was submitted to the Professors 
of Theology ; and they had power to suspend the preacher from 
preaching again within the precincts of the University unless he re- 
canted his statements . This power was exercised in the case of Wesley's 
Sermon IV, on Scriptural Christianity (q.v.). All Doctors, Masters, 
graduates, and scholars were required diligently to attend these 
services, unless they could find some reasonable excuse for their 
absence. See Statuta Universitatis Oxoniensis Titulus XII, De Con- 

This sermon was preached on June 11, 1738 (not June 18, as stated 
in the note to the sermon in Works, 1771). The Journal only says, 
under date June 8, ' On Saturday came to Stanton Harcourt ' (a village 
in Oxfordshire, about six miles due west of Oxford, with a population 
of about 500 souls) . ' Having preached faith in Christ there on Sunday 
the nth, I went on to Oxford ; and thence on Monday to London.' 
Apparently he tried over his discourse at Stanton Harcourt in the 
morning, and then went on to Oxford, and preached it there in the 


36 Sermon I 

afternoon. The meeting in Aldersgate Street where Paul, Luther, and 
Wesley appear in such a significant conjunction, and where Wesley felt 
' my heart strangely warmed. I felt I did trust in Christ, Christ alone 
for salvation, and an assurance was given me that He had taken away 
my sins, even mine, and saved me from the law of sin and death,' took 
place on May 24. His new experience was thus only eighteen days 
old when he uttered this great manifesto before the University. The 
Church of the Blessed Virgin Mary in the High Street of Oxford has 
reverberated to many epoch-making utterances. Here Cranmer wit- 
nessed a good confession, before he went out to seal his faith with his 
blood at the stake near Balliol, where Latimer and Ridley had already 
suffered ; here Newman and Pusey preached those sermons which led 
to the Catholic revival in the Church of England in the nineteenth 
century ; but never have its ancient walls re-echoed words of more 
far-reaching importance in the history of religion than when on 
this day John Wesley blew the first trumpet-call of the Evangelical 

This was not a new sermon composed for the occasion ; Wesley 
had preached on May 14 at St. Ann's, Aldersgate, and at the Savoy 
Chapel, on ' free salvation by faith in the blood of Christ ' — doubtless 
this sermon. Indeed, it was probably written in America. Note the 
denial of the possibility of good works before justification, the lack of 
personal passion in the definition of faith, the uncompromising state- 
ment in ii. 6 of the complete absence of sin in the believer, and the 
confusion of justification with regeneration — all marks of Wesley's 
earlier period. Still, it was a favourite discourse of his ; and there 
are several records of his having preached it in the Journal, and in 
the sermon list up to the end of 1760 : notably on his father's tomb- 
stone at Epworth on June 7, 1742. He re-wrote it entirely in 1765 
and published it under the title of ' The Scripture Way of Salvation,' 
and placed it as No. XLIII in the 1771 edition. 1 It is interesting to 
compare the two sermons. The divisions are the same ; but in the 
second salvation is taken to include prevenient grace, justification, 
and sanctification, which is spoken of as identical with regeneration 
in its beginning but as going on gradually to entire sanctification. 
It is allowed that good works may be done before conversion, and 
are indeed remotely necessary to it, though not properly a condition 
of salvation. The doctrine that there is no sin in a believer is 
declared to be extremely mischievous, as blocking the way to the 
seeking of entire sanctification, with which the rest of the sermon is 


1 No. L in the present ed. See vol. ii, p. 442. 

Salvation by Faith 


By grace are ye saved through faith. — Eph. ii. 8. 

i. All the blessings which God hath bestowed upon man are 
of His mere grace, bounty, or favour ; His free, undeserved 
favour ; favour altogether undeserved ; man having no claim 
to the least of His mercies. It was free grace that ' formed 
man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into him a living 
soul,' and stamped on that soul the image of God, and ' put 
all things under his feet.' The same free grace continues to 
us, at this day, life, and breath, and all things. For there is 
nothing we are, or have, or do, which can deserve the least 
thing at God's hand. * All our works, Thou, O God, hast 
wrought in us.' These, therefore, are so many more instances 
of free mercy : and whatever righteousness may be found in 
man, this is also the gift of God. 

2. Wherewithal then shall a sinful man atone for any the 
least of his sins ? With his own works ? No. Were they 
ever so many or holy, they are not his own, but God's. But 
Indeed they are all unholy and sinful themselves, so that every 

Par. i. The conception of God as 
an absolute Sovereign, which under- 
lies this paragraph, fails to recognize 
the true relationship between God 
and man which our Lord reveals to 
us, when He teaches us to call God 
' Our Father.' Even creation im- 
plies a certain claim by the creature 
on the Creator ; still more does 
Fatherhood involve a claim on the 
part of the children. Having brought 
us into being under conditions for 
which we were not responsible, God 
(we say reverently) is bound as our 
Father to provide for those needs 
which are thereby occasioned ; and 
above all, for our salvation from sin. 

2. Wesley changed his opinion as 
to the nature of good works done 
before conversion. In Minutes, 1745 
(Friday, August 2), we find : ' Q. 7. 
Have we duly considered the case 
of Cornelius ? Was he not in the 
favour of God, when his " prayers 
and alms came up for a memorial 

before God " ? i.e. before he be- 
lieved in Christ ? A. It does seem 
that he was, in some degree. But 
we speak not of those who have not 
heard the gospel. Q. 8. But were 
those works of his splendid sins ? 
A. No ; nor were they done without 
the grace of Christ. Q. 9. How, 
then, can we maintain that all works 
done before we have a sense of the 
pardoning love of God are sin ? And, 
as such, an abomination to Him ? 
A. The works of him who has heard 
the gospel and does not believe are 
not done as God hath willed and 
commanded them to be done. And 
yet we know not how to say that 
they are an abomination to the 
Lord in him who feareth God, and 
from that principle does the best he 
can.' Similarly in the note on 
Acts x. 4 (1755) he says : ' Dare any 
man say, These were only splendid 
sins ? Or that they were an 
abomination before God ? And yet 


Sermon I 

one of them needs a fresh atonement. Only corrupt fruit 
grows on a corrupt tree. And his heart is altogether corrupt 
and abominable , being ' come short of the glory of God,' the 
glorious righteousness at first impressed on his soul, after the 
image of his great Creator. Therefore, having nothing, neither 
righteousness nor works, to plead, his mouth is utterly stopped 
before God. 

3. If then sinful men find favour with God, it is ' grace 
upon grace ! ' If God vouchsafe still to pour fresh blessings 
upon us, yea, the greatest of all blessings, salvation ; what can 
we say to these things, but, ' Thanks be unto God for His 
unspeakable gift ! ' And thus it is. Herein ' God commendeth 
His love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ 
died ' to save us. 'By grace ' then ' are ye saved through 
faith.' Grace is the source, faith the condition, of salvation) 

Now, that we fall not short of the grace of God, it concerns 
us carefully to inquire — 

I. What faith it is through which we are saved. 
II. What is the salvation which is through faith. 


I. What faith it is through which we are saved. 

1. And, first, it is not barely the faith of a Heathen. 

Now, God requireth of a Heathen to believe, ' that God is , 
that He is a rewarder of them that diligently seek Him ' ; and 
that He is to be sought by glorifying Him as God, by giving 
Him thanks for all things, and by a careful practice of moral 
virtue, of justice, mercy, and truth, toward their fellow 
creatures. A Greek or Roman, therefore, yea, a Scythian or 

it is certain, in the Christian sense, 
Cornelius was then an unbeliever.' 
But this modification of the uncom- 
promising statement that such works 
' are all unholy and sinful ' does not 
affect the argument ; however good 
they may be, they cannot atone for 
past sins ; at best we have but done 
that it was our duty to do, and have 
not acquired any merit. 

3. The first quotation hardly bears 
the sense here given to it. St. 
John (i. 16) says, ' We have received 
X&pw avrl x6p LT °s> grace instead of 
grace ; for the law was given through 
Moses, grace and truth came through 
Jesus Christ.' The law was itself a 
gift of grace, but we have received, 
instead of it, the greater grace and 
the profounder truth of the gospel. 

Salvation by Faith 39 

Indian, was without excuse if he did not believe thus much : 
the being and attributes of God, a future state of reward and 
punishment, and the obligatory nature of moral virtue. For 
this is barely the faith of a Heathen. 

2. Nor, secondly, is it the faith of a devil, though this goes 
much farther than that of a Heathen. For the devil believes, 
not only that there is a wise and powerful God, gracious to 
reward, and just to punish , but also, that Jesus is the Son of 
God, the Christ, the Saviour of the world. So we find him 
declaring, in express terms, ' I know Thee who Thou art ; the 
Holy One of God ' (Luke iv. 34). Nor can we doubt but that 
unhappy spirit believes all those words which came out of the 
mouth of the Holy One , yea, and whatsoever else was written 
by those holy men of old, of two of whom he was compelled 
to give that glorious testimony, ' These men are the servants 
of the most high God, who show unto you the way of salvation.' 
Thus much, then, the great enemy of God and man believes, 
and trembles in believing, — that God was made manifest 
in the flesh , that He will ' tread all enemies under His feet ' , 
and that ' all Scripture was given by inspiration of God.' 
Thus far goeth the faith of a devil. 

3. Thirdly. The faith through which we are saved, in 
that sense of the word which will hereafter be explained, is 
not barely that which the Apostles themselves had while 
Christ was yet upon earth ; though they so believed on Him as 
to ' leave all and follow Him ' , although they had then power 
to work miracles, to ' heal all manner of sickness, and all 
manner of disease ' ; yea, they had then ' power and authority 
over all devils ' ; and, which is beyond all this, were sent by 
their Master to ' preach the kingdom of God.' 

4. What faith is it then through which we are saved ? 
It may be answered, first, in general, Jt ^s^^ajth in^lmst ^ 
Christ, and God through Christ, are the proper objects of it. 

I. 3. In Minutes, June 16, 1747, 4- The view that faith is rather 

Q. 4, Wesley says : ' The apostles emotional than intellectual is en- 

them'selves had not the proper tirely in accord with the conclusions 

Christian faith till after the Day of of the most recent psychologists. 

Pentecost.' In fact » & * s an act °* tlie wnole man » 

40 Sermon I 

Herein, therefore, it is sufficiently, absolutely distinguished 
from the faith either of ancient or modern Heathens. And 
from the faith of a devil it is fully distinguished by this .L_it is. 
not barely a speculative, rational thing, a cold, lifeless assent, a 
train of ideas in the head ; but also a disposition of the heart. 
For thus saith the Scripture, ' With the heart man believeth 
unto righteousness ' , and, ' If thou shalt confess with thy 
mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe with thy heart that 
God hath raised Him from the dead, thou shalt be saved.' 

5. And herein does it differ from that faith which the 
Apostles themselves had while our Lord was on earth, that it 
acknowledges the necessity and merit of His death, and the 
power of His resurrection. It acknowledges His death as the 
only sufficient means of redeeming man from death eternal, 
and His resurrection as the restoration of us all to life and 
immortality ; inasmuch as He ' was delivered for our sins, and 
rose again for our justification.' Christian faith is, then, not 
only an assent to the whole gospel of Christ, but also a full 
reliance on the blood of Christ ; a trust in the merits of His 
life, death, and resurrection , a recumbency upon Him as our 

not of any one faculty. It must brain, but between heart and mouth ; 

have some intellectual basis — though the inward experience and the out- 

this may be very slight, as we may ward confession. It thus proves 

judge from the conversions of men what Wesley intended, but it goes 

who have no knowledge at all of farther than he saw ; faith is an act 

theology ; it is prompted by emotion ; of the whole inward man. 

but its essence is an_act,of t he will, 5. Nothing could be better than 

what Methodists often speak of as ' this definition of faith ; and it lays 

a venturing upon Christ ; and it the right emphasis on the act of the 

always results in an activTetiort to will, expressed by reliance, trust, re- 

1realize_the_new ideal, ~"Tir the pas^"" cumbency, closing with Him, cleav- 

sage quoted by Wesley, the word ing to Him. The only possible 

KapSla (heart) means the whole per- emendation that can be suggested 

aonalityof man; not, like our 'heart,' is that the words 'as far as it is 

exclusively the emotions. Both the known ' should be added to ' the 

Hebrews and the Greeks used the whole gospel of Christ.' Assent to 

word ' bowels ' to indicate the emo- the whole gospel is certainly not 

tions ; and they never distinguished, essential to salvation, 
as we do, between the heart and the This view of the nature of"T!aith 

brain as the seats of emotion and in- is now so generally accepted that 

tellect respectively. The contrast it seems at first sight surprising that 

in the text is not between heart and it should have met with so much 

Salvation by Faith 41 

atonement and our life, as given for us, and living in us. [It 
is a sure confidence which a man hath in God, that through 
the merits of Christ, his sins are forgiven, and he reconciled to 
the favour of God ;] and, in consequence hereof, a closing with 
Him, and cleaving to Him, as our ' wisd om, righteousness^ 
sanctification, and redemptio n t lor i Jn one word, our salvation. 

II. What salvation it is, which is through this faith, is the 
second thing to be considered. 

1. And, first, whatsoever else it imply, it is a^present 
salvation. It is something attainable, yea, actually attained, 
on earth, by those who are partakers of this faith. For thus 
saith the Apostle to the believers at Ephesus, and in them to 
the believers of all ages, not, Ye shall be (though that also is 
true), but, ' Ye are saved through faith.' 

2. Ye are saved (to comprise all in one word) from sin. 
This is the salvation which is through faith. This is that 
great salvation foretold by the angel, before God brought His 
First-begotten into the world : ' Thou shalt call His name 
Jesus ; for He shall save His people from their sins.' And 
neither here, nor in other parts of holy writ, is there any 
limitation or restriction. All His people, or, as it is elsewhere 

opposition when it was preached by No. 459 (August 16, 171 2), Addison, 

Wesley. But it must be remembered comparing morality with faith, says 

that in the current theological litera- that morality has the pre-eminence 

ture of the time faith was almost in several respects, one of which is 
always used in the sense of assent " ' Because the rule of morality is 
to some proposition on evidence ~much more certain than that of 
adduced ; and, in particular, assenf~ faith, all the civilized nations of the 

to the creed of the Church and to world agreeing in the great points of 

the truth of the Bible. Feeling was morality, as much as they differ in 

not to be allowed to interfere with those of faith ' ; and later he says 

the cool conclusions of dispassionate that the ' excellency of faith ' is 

reason ; and the worst sin was identical with * the belief of revealed 

' enthusiasm,' which was regarded religion.' It is assumed throughout 

as bad form— an unpardonable fault that a man can live a moral life if 

in that age of chilly correctness. The he likes ; and the best that can be 

admirable Essays on Morality which said of faith is that it ' strengthens 

are found in the periodical literature and supports morality.' 
of the early eighteenth century in- II. 1. It is noticeable that not 

variably emphasize the supreme one word is said in this sermon about 

importance of conduct, as contrasted salvation from hell, 
with feeling. Thus in the Spectator, 


Sermon I 

expressed, ' all that believe in Him,' He will save from all their 
sins , from original and actual, past and present sin, ' of the 
flesh and of the spirit.' Through faith that is in Him, they are 
saved both from the guilt and from the power of it. 

3. First, from the guilt of all past sin : for, whereas all 
the world is guilty before God, insomuch that should He 
' be extreme to mark what is done amiss, there is none that 
could abide it ' and whereas, ' by the law is ' only ' the 
knowledge of sin,' but no deliverance from it, so that, ' by ' 
fulfilling ' the deeds of the law, no flesh can be justified in 
His sight ' now, ' the righteousness of God, which is by 
faith of Jesus Christ, is manifested unto all that believe.' 
Now, ' they are justified freely by His grace, through the 
redemption that is in Jesus Christ.' ' Him God hath set forth 
to be a propitiation through faith in His blood, to declare His 
righteousness for (or by) the remission of the sins that are 
past.' Now hath Christ taken away ' the curse of the law, 
being made a curse for us.' He hath ' blotted out the hand- 
writing that was against us, taking it out of the way, nailing 
it to His cross.' ' There is therefore no condemnation now to 
them which ' believe ' in Christ Jesus.' 

4. And being saved from guilt, they are saved from fear. 
Not indeed from a filial fear of offending ; but from all servile 

3. The interpretation of Rom. iii. 
25 cannot be sustained. Neither 
' for ' nor ' by ' gives the correct 
meaning of did, which is ' on account 
of.' The death of Christ manifests 
the righteousness of God (1) in the 
passing over of sins committed be- 
fore the coming of Christ, and (2) 
in the present justification of the 
believer. For example, David was 
forgiven before the Atonement had 
been effected ; but God is justified 
in forgiving him because of the 
Atonement which was to be effected 
for the sins of the whole world, in- 
cluding those of former times. 

4. The question of final persever- 
ance was one of those which divided 
Wesley from Whitefield. In 1743 

Wesley tried to bring about an 
agreement with him, and set out the 
concessions which he was prepared 
to make. The document is given in 
the Journal, August 24, 1743. In it 
he says : ' I incline to believe that 
there is a state attainable in this life 
from which a man cannot finally 
fall ; and that he has attained this 
who can say, " Old things are passed 
away ; all things " in me "are be- 
come new." ' But Whitefield re- 
fused the eirenicon ; and Wesley 
quite retracted from the position 
which for the sake of peace he had 
adopted in this document. The con- 
cluding paragraph of Serious Thoughts 
upon the Perseverance of the Saints 
(1 75 1) says: ' If the Scriptures are 

Salvation by Faith 


fear ; from that fear which hath torment , from fear of punish- 
ment ; from fear of the wrath of God, whom they now no 
longer regard as a severe Master, but as an indulgent Father. 
' They have not received again the spirit of bondage, but the 
Spirit of adoption, whereby they cry, Abba, Father the Spirit 
itself also bearing witness with their spirits, that they are the 
children of God.' They are also saved from the fear, though 
not from the possibility, of falling away from the grace of God, 
and coming short of the great and precious promises. [They 
are sealed with the Holy Spirit of Promise, which is the earnest 
of their inheritance (Eph. i. 13).] Thus have they ' peace with 
God through our Lord Jesus Christ. They rejoice in hope of the 
•glory "of God. And the love of God is shed abroad in their 
hearts, through the Holy Ghost, which is given unto them.' And 
hereby they are persuaded (though perhaps not at all times, 

true, those who are sanctified by 
the blood of the covenant may never- 
theless so fall from God as to perish 
everlastingly.' In a letter dated 
August 3, 1789 (Works, xiii. 116), he 
says that the doctrine of uncondi- 
tional perseverance ' leads the way 
by easy steps first to presumption, 
and then to black despair. What 

a blessing it is that you have 

been saved from this poisonous doc- 
trine I ' 

' Perhaps not at all times,' &c. 
Wesley is speaking from his own 
experience. The night after his 
conversion he ' was much buffeted 
with temptations ' ; the next day 
he was tempted to think that his 
faith was not real ; on May 31 he 
' grieved the Spirit of God and 

was troubled and in heaviness. ' Even 
on October 1 4 he writes in his Journal : 
' I have not that joy in the Holy 
Ghost ; no settled, lasting joy. Nor 
have I such a peace as excludes the 
possibility either of fear or doubt.' 
On January 4, 1739, he speaks more 
strongly still : * I affirm I am not 
a Christian now. I do not love 

either the Father or the Son. Joy 
in the Holy Ghost I have not. Yet 
again, I have not the peace of God.' 
In all this we have, what we so often 
find in him, the conclusions of his 
severe logic conflicting with experi- 
ence. He did not at first realize that 
the ideal of the Christian life, as 
described in Scripture, is by its nature 
attainable only by long effort ; that 
it is something to be aimed at, not 
immediately reached. 
Ah, but a man's reach should exceed his grasp, 
Or what's a heaven for ? 

In one of Lewis Carroll's parodies 
of the Mathematical Tripos papers 
he has a question in which an ele- 
phant walking up a plank is a factor ; 
and Carroll humorously adds in 
brackets, ' The weight of the ele- 
phant may be regarded as negligible ! ' 
When Wesley was formulating his 
theological theories about sin, and 
Christian perfection, and other mat- 
ters, he too often began by disre- 
garding the weight of the elephant ; 
but his strong common sense in- 
variably came to the rescue in the 
long run. 


Sermon I 

nor with the same fullness of persuasion), that 'neither death, 
nor life, nor things present, nor things to come, nor height, nor 
depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate them 
from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.' 

5. Again : through this faith they are saved from the 
power of sin, as well as from the guilt of it. So the Apostle 
declares, ' Ye know that He was manifested to take away our 
sins ; and in Him is no sin. Whosoever abideth in Him sinneth 
not' (1 John hi. 5, &c). Again: 'Little children, let no 
man deceive you. He that committeth sin is of the devil. 
Whosoever believeth is born of God. And whosoever is born 
of God doth not commit sin , for His seed remaineth in him : 
and he cannot sin, because he is born of God.' Once more 

' We know that whosoever is born of God sinneth not ; but he 
that is begotten of God keepeth himself, and that wicked one 
toucheth him not ' (1 John v. 18). 

6. He that is, by faith, born of God sinneth not (1) by any 
habitual sin , for all habitual sin is sin reigning : but sin 
cannot reign in any that believeth. Nor (2) by any wilful 
sin ; for his will, while he abideth in the faith, is utterly set 
against all sin, and abhorreth it as deadly poison. Nor (3) 
by any sinful desire ; for he continually desireth the holy and 
perfect will of God ; and any tendency to an unholy desire, he 

6. Wesley soon found reason to 
modify these strong statements. As 
to habitual sin, there can be no 
question. As to wilful sin, it may 
be theoretically said that a believer, 
as long as he believes, cannot wil- 
fully sin ; and in the Minutes, 1744, 
Q. 9, Wesley affirms : ' If a believer 
wilfully sins, he casts away his faith ; 
neither is it possible he should have 
justifying faith again, without pre- 
viously repenting.' That he cannot 
be forgiven without repentance may 
be admitted ; but it is surely a mis- 
use of language to say that he must, 
so to speak, go back to the begin- 
ning, and be born again. As our 
Lord suggests (John xiii. 10), a man 

does not need to take a bath every 
time he soils his feet. Sin is a sick- 
ness, but it need not be unto death. 
The life imparted when a man is 
born again is not destroyed, though 
it is enfeebled, by a single lapse of 
the will into sin. Practically this is 
admitted in Minutes, 1745, when it 
is stated that from the moment of 
justification ' the believer gradually 
dies to sin, and grows in grace. Yet 
sin remains in him ; yea, the seed 
of all sin, till he is sanctified through- 
out in spirit, soul, and body.' As to 
sinful desires, the possibility of the 
rising of unholy desires in the be- 
liever is here admitted ; and is 
expressly affirmed in the sermon on 

Salvation by Faith 


by the grace of God, stifleth in the birth. Nor (4) doth he sin 
by infirmities, whether in act, word, or thought ; for his 
infirmitiesjhaveno concurrence of his will , and without this 
.they are not properly sins. "" Thus, ' he that is born of God doth 
not commit sin ' : and though he cannot say he hath not sinned, 
yet now ' he sinneth not.' 

7. This then is the salvation which is through faith, even 
in the present world : a salvation from sin, and the conse- 
quences of sin, both often expressed in the word justification ; 
which, taken in the largest sense, implies a deliverance from 
guilt and punishment, by the atonement of Christ actually 
applied to the soul of the sinner now believing on Him, and a 
deliverance from the [whole body] of sin, through Christ formed 
in his heart. So that he who is thus justified, or saved by faith, 
is indeed born again. He is bom again of the Spirit unto a 
new life, which ' is hid with Christ in TJoS? "[He is a~new~ 

creatureiold things are passed away"""aITtIungs in him are 
become new.] And as a new-born babe he gladly receives the 
aSokov, ' sincere milk of the word, and grows thereby ' ; going 
on in the might of the Lord his God, from faith to faith, from 
grace to grace, until at length, he comes unto ' a perfect man, 
unto the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ/ 

Sin in Believers, v. 2 : ' Although 
we are renewed, purified, sanctified, 
the moment we truly believe in 
Christ, yet we are not then renewed, 
cleansed, purified altogether ; but 
the flesh, the evil nature, still re- 
mains (though subdued) and wars 
against the Spirit.'- But Sermon3 
XLVI and XLVII should be read 
and compared with this paragraph. 
As to infirmities, in which there is 
no concurrence of the will, there is 
no question of sin at all. See also 
Sermons VIII and XXXIX. 

7. Justification is here used gene- 
rically to include pardon and regene- 
ration. In Sermon XLVI, ii. I, 
Wesley distinguishes regeneration as 
' implying an inward, actual change ' 
from justification, which implies ' a 

relative one ' ; and goes on : ' Yet 
they come to one and the same 
thing ; as every one that believes is 
both justified and born of God.' 
This is true in point of time ; but 
the distinction in thought is real, 
and it is better to maintain it. In 
Sermon XV. pars. 1-3, the distinc- 
tion is very clearly stated and its 
importance maintained. 

The original Greek word, trans- 
lated ' sincere ' (&do\ov), is omitted 
in the 1771 edition. It was quoted 
in the first edition, and doubtless in 
the delivery of the sermon before 
the University, because the English 
rendering is inadequate. The word 
is shown by many examples in the 
Papyri to mean ' pure, unadulter- 

4 6 

Sermon I 

III. The first usual objection to this is, 

i. That to preach salvation, or justification, by faith only, 
is to preach against holiness and good works. To which a 
short answer might be given : ' It would be so, if we spake, 
as some do, of a faith which was separate from these ; but 
we speak of a faith which is not so, but [necessarily] productive 
of all good works, and all holiness.' 

2. But it may be of use to consider it more at large ; 
especially since it is no new objection, but as old as St. Paul's 
time : for even then it was asked, ' Do we not make void the 
law through faith ? ' We answer, first, all who preach not 
faith do manifestly make void the law ; either directly and 
grossly, by limitations and comments that eat out all the 
spirit of the text , or indirectly, by not pointing out the only 
means whereby it is possible to perform it. Whereas, secondly, 
' we establish the law,' both by showing its full extent and 
spiritual meaning , and by calling all to that living way, 
whereby ' the righteousness of the law may be fulfilled in them.' 
These, while they trust in the blood of Christ alone, use all the 
ordinances which He hath appointed, do all the ' good works 
which He had before prepared that they should walk therein,' 
and enjoy and manifest all holy and heavenly tempers, even 
the same mind that was in Christ Jesus. 

3. But does not preaching this faith lead men into pride ? 
We answer, Accidentally it may therefore ought every 

III. 1. Wesley never varied in his 
teaching as to the relation between 
faith and works. In Minutes, 1745, 
Q. 25, we find : ' Does faith supersede 
(set aside the necessity of) holiness 
or good works ? A. In no wise. 
So far from it, that it implies both, 
as a cause doth its effects.' He 
admits, however, under an earlier 
question (No. 2) that ' fruits or works 
meet for repentance go before faith, 
supposing there be opportunity for 
them,' and that in this sense they 
may be regarded as ' conditions of 
justification ' ; he thinks that the 
word ' condition ' has been ' griev- 

ously abused ' ; but he regards the 
dispute as to the term ' a mere strife 
of words,' and declines to continue 
it. Still, his own preference is to 
affirm that ' faith in Christ is the 
sole condition of justification.' See 
note on Sermon XXII, 2. 

3. ' Of yourselves cometh neither 
your faith nor your salvation.' If 
this be so, where does human re- 
sponsibility come in ? The passage 
quoted (Eph. ii. 8) will not bear the 
weight of this statement ; it does 
not say that faith is the gift of God ; 
but that salvation (tovto, this whole 
thing) is the gift of God. The power 

Salvation by Faith 


believer to be earnestly cautioned, in the words of the great 
Apostle, ' Because of unbelief,' the first branches ' were broken 
off ; and thou standest by faith. Be not high-minded, but 
fear. If God spared not the natural branches, take heed lest 
He spare not thee. Behold therefore the goodness and severity 
of God ! On them which fell, severity , but towards thee, 
goodness, if thou continue in His goodness , otherwise thou 
also shalt be cut off.' And while he continues therein, he 
will remember those words of St. Paul, foreseeing and answering 
this very objection (Rom. iii. 27), ' Where is boasting then ? 
It is excluded. By what law ? of works ? Nay but by 
the law of faith.' If a man were justified by his works, he 
would have whereof to glory. But there is no glorying for 
him ' that worketh not, but believeth on Him that justifieth 
the ungodly ' (Rom. iv. 5). To the same effect are the words 
both preceding and following the text (Eph. ii. 4, &c.) : ' God, 
who is rich in mercy, even when we were dead in sins, hath 
quickened us together with Christ (by grace ye are saved), 
that He might show the exceeding riches of His grace in His 
kindness toward us through Christ Jesus. For by grace are 
ye saved through faith , and that not of yourselves.' Of 
yourselves cometh neither your faith nor your salvation : 
' it is the gift of God ' , the free, undeserved gift , the faith 
through which ye are saved, as well as the salvation which He 
of His own good pleasure, His mere favour, annexes thereto. 

to believe, like every other power 
both of mind and body, is the gift 
of God, bestowed, like the power to 
breathe, on every man ; the disposi- 
tion to believe is wrought in man by 
the Spirit of God, and without it 
faith is impossible ; and this gift of 
God ' cometh upon all men unto 
justification of life.' Nevertheless, 
it is left to our own choice (and this 
also is a gift of God) to decide whether 
we will use the power and yield to 
the disposition, so as actually to 
exercise the faith which bringeth 
salvation. In Predestination Calmly 
Considered, pars. 45-7, Wesley says : 

' Natural free-will, in the present 
state of mankind, I do not under- 
stand ; I only assert that there is a 
measure of free-will supernaturally 
restored to every man, together with 
that supernatural light which ' ' en- 
lightens every man that cometh into 
the world." ' And again: ' We can- 
not allow that man can only resist, 
and not in anywise "work together 
with God " ; or that God is so the 
whole worker of our salvation, as 
to exclude man's working at all. 
This I dare not say.' But this does 
not make faith a meritorious cause 
of our salvation ; the price has been 

48 Sermon I 

That ye believe, is one instance of His grace , that believing 
ye are saved, another. ' Not of works, lest any man should 
boast.' For all our works, all our righteousness, which were 
before our believing, merited nothing of God but condemna- 
tion ; so far were they from deserving faith, which therefore, 
whenever given, is not of works. Neither is salvation of the 
works we do when we believe ; for it is then God that worketh 
in us : and, therefore, 4hat He giveth us a reward for what He 
Himself worketh, only commendeth the riches of His mercy, 
but leaveth us nothing whereof to glory. 

4. However, may not the speaking thus of the mercy of 
God, as saving or justifying freely by faith only, encourage 
men in sin ? Indeed, it may and will : many will ' continue in 
sin that grace may abound ' , but their blood is upon their 
own head. The goodness of God ought to lead them to repent- 
ance ; and so it will those who" are ""sincere of heart. When 
they know there is yet forgiveness with Him, they will cry 
aloud that He would blot out their sins also, through faith 
which is in Jesus. And if they earnestly cry, and faint not ; 
if they seek Him in all the means He hath appointed ; if they 
refuse to be comforted till He come ; ' He will come, and will 
not tarry.' And He can do much work in a short time. Many 
are the examples, in the Acts of the Apostles, of God's [shedding 
abroad] this faith in men's hearts, even like lightning falling 
from heaven. So in the same hour that Paul and Silas began 
to preach, the jailer repented, believed, and was baptized, as 
were three thousand, by St. Peter, on the day of Pentecost, 
who all repented and believed at his first preaching. And, 
blessed be God, there are now many living proofs that He is 
still ' mighty to save.' 

5. Yet to the same truth, placed in another view, a quite 
contrary objection is made ' If a man cannot be saved by all 

paid once for all by our Lord ; that by the death of our Saviour, is only 

I stretch out my hand to receive one aspect of the truth, and may 

what He has bought for me, is a con- easily be pressed too far. 

dition of my possessing it, but is ' All our works merited no- 

not any part of the price. But, in- thing of God but condemnation.' 

deed, the conception of salvation as See note on par. I. 1. 

something bought or merited, even 

Salvation by Faith 49 

that he can do, this will drive men to despair.' True, to 
despair of being saved by their own works, their own merits j 
or righteousness. And so it ought ; for none can trust in the) 
merits of Christ, till he has utterly renounced his own. He! 
that ' goeth about to establish his own righteousness ' cannot 
receive the righteousness of God. The righteousness which is 
of faith cannot be given him while he trusteth in that which 
is of the law. 

6. But this, it is said, is an uncomfortable doctrine. The 
devil spoke like himself, that is, without either truth or shame, 
when he dared to suggest to men that it is such. It is the 
only comfortable one, it is ' very full of comfort,' to all self- 
destroyed, self-condemned sinners. That ' whosoever believeth 
on Him shall not be ashamed : that the same Lord over all is 
rich unto all that call upon Him ' : here is comfort, high as 
heaven, stronger than death ! What ! Mercy for all ? For 
Zacchaeus, a public robber ? For Mary Magdalene, a common 
harlot ? Methinks I hear one say, ' Then I, even I, may hope 
for mercy ! ' And so thou mayest, thou afflicted one, whom 
none hath comforted ! God will not cast out thy prayer. Nay, 
perhaps He may say the next hour, ' Be of good cheer, thy sins 
are forgiven thee ' ; so forgiven, that they shall reign over 
thee no more, yea, and that 'the Holy Spirit shall bear 
witness with thy spirit that thou art a child of God.' O glad 
tidings ! tidings of great joy, which are sent unto all people ! 
' Ho, every one that thirsteth, come ye to the waters : come 
ye, and buy, without money and without price.' Whatsoever 
your sins be, ' though red like crimson,' though more than 
the hairs of your head, ' return ye unto the Lord, and He will 
have mercy upon you , and to our God, for He will abundantly 


7. When no more objections occur, then we are simply 
told that salvation by faith only ought not to be preached as 
the first doctrine, or, at least, not to be preached to all. But 
what saith the Holy Ghost ? ' Other foundation can no man 
lay than that which is laid, even Jesus Christ.' So then, 
that ' whosoever believeth on Him shall be saved,' is, and 
must be, the foundation of all our preaching ; that is, must be 


Sermon I 

preached first. ' Well, but not to all.' To whom then are we 
not to preach it ? Whom shall we except ? The poor ? Nay ; 
they have a peculiar right to have the gospel preached unto 
them. The unlearned ? No. God hath revealed these things 
unto unlearned and ignorant men from the beginning. The 
young ? By no means. ' Suffer these,' in any wise, to come 
unto Christ, ' and forbid them not/ The sinners ? Least of 
all. ' He came not to call the righteous, but sinners to repen- 
tance.' Why then, if any, we are to except the rich, the 
learned, the reputable, the moral men. And, it is true, they 
too often except themselves from hearing , yet we must speak 
the words of our Lord. For thus the tenor of our commission 
runs, ' Go and preach the gospel to every creature.' If any 
man wrest it, or any part of it, to his destruction, he must bear 
his own burden. But still, ' as the Lord liveth, whatsoever 
the Lord saith unto us, that we will speak.' 

8. At this time, more especially, will we speak, that ' by 
grace are ye saved through faith ' : because, never was the 
maintaining this doctrine more seasonable than it is at this 
day. Nothing but this can effectually prevent the increase 
of the Romish delusion among us. It is endless to attack, 
one by one, all the errors of that Church. But salvation by 
faith strikes at the root, and all fall at^oncT~wReTe" this is 
"established. iPwas this doctrine, which bur" Church justly 
calls the strong rock and foundation of the Christian religion, 
that first drove Popery out of these kingdoms , and it is this 
alone can keep it out. Nothing but this can give a check to 
that immorality which hath ' overspread the land as a flood.' 
Can you empty the great deep, drop by drop ? Then you may 
reform us by dissuasives from particular vices. But let the 

8. ' The strong rock,' &c. Quoted 
from the second part of the homily 
' Of Salvation.' A wise and weighty 
paragraph ; good to be read and 
pondered over by many of our 
modern champions of Protestantism 
and of our social reformers. As Mr. 
Curnock says in his note (Journal, 
vol. i. p. 484), * It was in St. Mary's, 

Oxford, that John Henry Newman, 
a century later, preached the ser- 
mons that heralded the advent of 
Tractarianism. Remembering this, 
how significant the words of Wesley 
in this great sermon — the sermon 
that heralded the advent of the 
Methodist Revival ! ' 

Salvation by Faith 51 

' righteousness which is of God by faith ' be brought in, and 
so shall its proud waves be stayed. Nothing but this can stop 
the mouths of those who ' glory in their shame, and openly 
deny the Lord that bought them.' They can talk as sublimely 
of the law, as he that hath it written by God in his heart. To 
hear them speak on this head might incline one to think they 
were not far from the kingdom of God : but take them out of 
the law into the gospel , begin with the righteousness of faith ; 
with Christ, ' the end of the law to every one that believeth ' ; 
and those who but now appeared almost, if not altogether, 
Christians, stand confessed the sons of perdition ; as far from 
life and salvation (God be merciful unto them !) as the depth 
of hell from the height of heaven. 

9. For this reason the adversary so rages whenever ' salva- 
tion by faith ' is declared to the world for this reason did he 
stir up earth and hell, to destroy those who first preached it. 
And for the same reason, knowing that faith alone could over- 
turn the foundations of his kingdom, did he call forth all his 
forces, and employ all his arts of lies and calumny, to affright 
[that champion of the Lord of hosts,] Martin Luther, from 
reviving it. Nor can we wonder thereat ; for, as that man of 
God observes, ' How would it enrage a proud, strong man 
armed, to be stopped and set at nought by a little child coming 
against him with a reed in his hand ! ' especially when he 
knew that little child would surely overthrow him, and tread 
him under foot. Even so, Lord Jesus ! Thus hath Thy 
strength been ever ' made perfect in weakness ' ! Go forth 
then, thou little child that believest in Him, and His ' right 
hand shall teach thee terrible things ! ' Though thou art 
helpless and weak as an infant of days, the strong man shall 
not be able to stand before thee. Thou shalt prevail over 
him, and subdue him, and overthrow him, and trample him 

9. The reference to Martin Luther strangely warmed.' He later (1749) 
becomes doubly significant when we translated the Life of Luther. But in 
remember that it was whilst listen- Journal, June 15, 1741, he criticizes 
ing to his introduction to his Com- Luther's Galatians most severely, 
mentary on Romans, that, eighteen I have not yet identified this quota- 
days before, Wesley ' felt his heart tion. 

52 Sermon I 

under thy feet. Thou shalt march on, under the great Captain 
of thy salvation, ' conquering and to conquer,' until all thine 
enemies are destroyed, and ' death is swallowed up in victory.' 

Now, thanks be to God, which giveth us the victory through 
our Lord Jesus Christ , to whom, with the Father and the 
Holy Ghost, be blessing, and glory, and wisdom, and thanks- 
giving, and honour, and power, and might, for ever and ever. 



Preached at St. Mary's, Oxford, before the University 

on July 25, 1741 

This sermon was preached on Sunday afternoon at two o'clock. Wesley 
says (Journal of this date) : ' It being my turn (which comes about 
once in three years) I preached at St. Mary's before the University. So 
numerous a congregation (from whatever motives they came) I have 
seldom seen at Oxford. My text was the confession of poor Agrippa.' 
He had already preached the same sermon in Charles Square, London, 
in the open air on June 28. He had intended to preach before the 
University the sermon on Isaiah i. 21, ' How is the faithful city become 
a harlot 1 ' which is published in the later editions of Wesley's Works 
as No. CXXXIV It was found after his death in English, dated 
June 24, 1741 ; and also in Latin. Dr. Adam Clarke supplemented 
the imperfect English copy from the Latin for publication. Wesley 
read it on June 28 to Lady Huntingdon ; but she dissuaded him 
from preaching it at St. Mary's. It was an outspoken attack on the 
doctrine and practice of the University, covering much the same 
ground as Section IV of the sermon on Scriptural Christianity, preached 
in 1744, for which John Wesley was excluded thereafter from the 
pulpit of St. Mary's, but expressed in much more violent language. 
The Deists are branded as ' the first-born of Satan ' ; Tillotson and 
Bull are criticized by name as having endeavoured to ' sap the very 
foundation of our Church ' by their teaching on justification and 
holiness ; ' the faith of a devil and the life of a heathen make up 
what most men call a good Christian ' in Oxford. Levity in College 
chapel, Sabbath-breaking, novel-reading and gambling, idleness (' O 
what is so scarce as learning save religion ! ' he exclaims), non-observ- 
ance of the Statutes, perjury in the subscription to the Articles and 
Homilies of the Church, are all vehemently denounced, to say nothing 
of the loss of the very notion of religion. There was much justifica- 
tion for what Wesley proposed to say ; but undoubtedly her lady- 
ship's advice was prudent. Consequently he decided to preach The 


54 Sermon II 

Almost Christian, and re-wrote it for the occasion in his rooms at 
Lincoln College. He published it later in the year. 

No wonder there was a large congregation. Since his last appear- 
ance in St. Mary's three years before, John Wesley had become the 
best known and the most abused man in England. He had been 
excluded from all the churches in London save four ; he had begun the 
practice of preaching in the open air ; he had founded the ' Societies ' 
which were the germ of the Methodist Church ; his preaching had 
been attended by strange bodily convulsions both in London and 
Bristol ; he had acquired and opened for worship the Foundery on 
Windmill Hill, north-west of Finsbury Square ; love-feasts (the very 
name of which suggested all sorts of filthy attacks), and watch-night 
services had been started ; laymen had been permitted to exhort and 
preach ; the papers were full of abuse of both Wesley and the Metho- 
dists. It is surprising that the University authorities allowed him 
to preach in St. Mary's ; it is not at all surprising that Oxford nocked 
to see and hear him. 

It is hardly necessary to point out that the text will not bear Wesley's 
interpretation ; it may mean ' With but little persuasion thou wouldest 
fain make me a Christian ' ; or ' In a little time, &c. ' ; but certainly 
not 'Almost.' And, even accepting the A.V translation, Agrippa 
does not say ' Thou persuadest me to be an almost Christian,' but 
' Almost thou persuadest me to be a Christian ' — a very different 
thing. However, Wesley attempts no exposition of his text ; it is 
used merely as a motto, and ' poor Agrippa ' is thrown overboard 
before the vessel has weighed anchor, and is never picked up again. 
The phrase itself is doubtful English ; though Southey adopted the 
idiom and called himself ' an almost Quaker.' 

Almost thou persuadest me to be a Christian. — Acts xxvi. 28. 

And many there are who go thus far : ever since the Christian 
religion was in the world, there have been many in every age 
and nation who were almost persuaded to be Christians. But 
seeing it avails nothing before God to go only thus far, it highly 
imports us to consider, — 

I. What is implied in being almost, 
II. What in being altogether, a Christian. 

I. (i.) 1. Now, in the being almost a Christian is implied, 
first, heathen honesty. No one, I suppose, will make any 
question of this , especially, since by heathen honesty here, I 

The Almost Christian 


mean, not that which is recommended in the writings of their 
philosophers only, but such as the common Heathens expected 
one of another, and many of them actually practised. By the 
rules of this they were taught that they ought not to be unjust ; 
not to take away their neighbour's goods, either by robbery 
or theft ; not to oppress the poor, neither to use extortion 
toward any ; not to cheat or overreach either the poor or rich, 
in whatsoever commerce they had with them ; to defraud no 
man of his right ; and, if it were possible, to owe no man 

2. Again : the common Heathens allowed, that some regard 
was to be paid to truth, as well as to justice. And, accordingly, 
they not only held him in abomination who was foresworn, 
who called God to witness to a lie ; but him also who was 
known to be a slanderer of his neighbour, who falsely accused 
any man. And, indeed, little better did they esteem wilful 
liars of any sort; accounting them the disgrace of human 
kind, and the pests of society. 

3. Yet again : there was a sort of love and assistance which 
they expected one from another. They expected whatever 
assistance any one could give another, without prejudice to 
himself. And this they extended not only to those little 
offices of humanity which are performed without any expense 
or labour, but likewise to the feeding the hungry, if they had 
food to spare ; the clothing the naked with their own super- 
fluous raiment , and, in general, the giving, to any that needed, 
such things as they needed not themselves. Thus far, in the 

I. par. 1. Here and elsewhere Wes- 
ley uses ' heathen ' in the sense of 
' non-Christian ' ; the remarkable 
development of Foreign Missionary 
effort in the nineteenth century has 
affected the meaning of the word, 
so that we use it mainly of the 
peoples to whom Christian mission- 
aries have been sent, and especially 
of those who, like the Polynesians, 
are not only non-Christian, but are 
also uncivilized and barbarous. But 

in the eighteenth century it had no 
such connotation, and is constantly 
used of the Greeks and Romans, 
without any intention of reproach or 
blame. So that we must beware of 
thinking that Wesley is sneering at 
Horace or Aristotle, when he speaks 
of them as ' the heathen poet ' and 
' the heathen moralist ' respectively. 
It is of the ethics of the Greeks and 
Romans that he is thinking in this 
section of the sermon. 


Sermon II 

lowest account of it, heathen honesty went , the first thing 
implied in the being almost a Christian. 

(ii.) 4. A second thing implied in the being almost a Christian 
is, the having a form of godliness , of that godliness which is 
prescribed in the gospel of Christ , the having the outside of a 
real Christian. Accordingly, the almost Christian does nothing 
which the gospel forbids. He taketh not the name of God in 
vain ; he blesseth, and curseth not , he sweareth not at all, 
but his communication is, yea, yea ; nay, nay. He profanes 
not the day of the Lord, nor suffers it to be profaned, even by 
the stranger that is within his gates. He not only avoids all 
actual adultery, fornication, and uncleanness, but every word 
or look that either directly or indirectly tends thereto ; nay, 
and all idle words, abstaining both from all detraction, back- 
biting, talebearing, evil speaking, and from ' all foolish talking 
and jesting ' — evrpaireXia, a kind of virtue in the heathen 
moralist's account — briefly, from all conversation that is not 
' good to the use of edifying,' and that, consequently, ' grieves 
the Holy Spirit of God, whereby we are sealed to the day of 

5. He abstains from ' wine wherein is excess ' , from revel- 
lings and gluttony. He avoids, as much as in him lies, all 
strife and contention, continually endeavouring to live peace- 
ably with all men. And, if he suffer wrong, he avengeth not 
himself, neither returns evil for evil. He is no railer, no 
brawler, no scoffer, either at the faults or infirmities of his 
neighbour. He does not willingly wrong, hurt, or grieve any 
man ; but in all things acts and speaks by that plain rule, 

4. eirpavekla is the word used by 
St. Paul in Eph. v. 4, and trans- 
lated in the A.V. and R.V ' jesting.' 
Its proper meaning is ' witty, lively 
talk ' ; and in this sense Aristotle 
(' the heathen moralist ') (Eth. Nic. 
ii. 7) makes it the virtuous mean 
between the vicious extremes of 
fiw/xokoxLa (ribaldry) and dypoucla 
(boorish stupidity). But there is 
always a danger that wit should 
degenerate into impropriety, and 

find its expression in the smoking- 
room story ; and so the word itself 
became degraded in meaning. It is 
in this latter sense that St. Paul 
warns the Ephesians against it. Of 
true evrpairikla Wesley was himself 
a master ; witness his famous retort 
on Beau Nash, ' Sir, I dare not judge 
of you by common report ' {Journal, 

June 5, 1739). 

5. This negative form of the Golden 

Rule is ascribed in the Talmud 

i ne siumosv K^nrisiian 


' Whatsoever thou wouldest not he should do unto thee, that 
do not thou to another.' 

6. And in doing good, he does not confine himself to cheap 
and easy offices of kindness, but labours and suffers for the 
profit of many, that by all means he may help some. In spite 
of toil or pain, ' whatsoever his hand findeth to do, he doeth 
it with all his might ' ; whether it be for his friends, or for his 
enemies , for the evil, or for the good. For being ' not sloth- 
ful ' in this, or in any ' business,' as he ' hath opportunity ' 
he doeth ' good,' all manner of good, ' to all men ' ; and to 
their souls as well as their bodies. He reproves the wicked, 
instructs the ignorant, confirms the wavering, quickens the 
good, and comforts the afflicted. He labours to awaken those 
that sleep ; to lead those whom God hath already awakened 
to the ' Fountain opened for sin and for uncleanness,' that they 
may wash therein and be clean ; and to stir up those who are 
saved through faith, to adorn the gospel of Christ in all things. 

7. He that hath the form of godliness uses also the means 
of grace ; yea, all of them, and at all opportunities. He 
constantly frequents the house of God , and that, not as the 
manner of some is, who come into the presence of the Most 
High, either loaded with gold and costly apparel, or in all 
the gaudy vanity of dress, and either by their unseasonable 
civilities to each other, or the impertinent gaiety of their 
behaviour, disclaim all pretensions to the form as well as to 
the power of godliness. Would to God there were none even 
among ourselves who fall under the same condemnation ! who 
come into this house, it may be, gazing about, or with all the 

(Sabb. xxxi. 1) to Hill el ; ' whatso- 
ever,' he is reported to have said, ' is 
hateful to thyself, do not to another. 
This is the whole law ; all the rest 
is the unfolding of its meaning.' 
But in the next paragraph Wesley 
assumes that his typical ' almost 
Christian ' also obeys the rule in the 
positive form in which our Lord 
enunciates it in Matt. vii. 12. 

7. There are numerous articles in 
the Spectator on the common im- 

proprieties of behaviour in church. 
For one example : in No. 460, 
August 18, 1 71 2, Steele speaks of 
' the ceremonies, bows, curtsies, 
whisperings, smiles, winks, nods, 
with other familiar arts of saluta- 
tion, which take up in our churches 
so much time that might be better 
employed ' ; and satirizes those who 
after being at church ' shall give a 
particular account how two or three 
hundred people were dressed.' 


Sermon II 

signs of the most listless, careless indifference, though some- 
times they may seem to use a prayer to God for His blessing 
on what* they are entering upon , who, during that awful 
service, are either asleep, or reclined in the most convenient 
posture for it , or, as though they supposed God was asleep, 
talking with one another, or looking round, as utterly void of 
employment. Neither let these be accused of the form of 
godliness. No , he who has even this, behaves with seriousness 
and attention, in every part of that solemn service. More 
especially, when he approaches the table of the Lord, it is not 
with a light or careless behaviour, but with an air, gesture, and 
deportment which speaks nothing else but ' God be merciful to 
me a sinner ! ' 

8. To this, if we add the constant use of family prayer, by 
those who are masters of families, and the setting times apart 
for private addresses to God, with a daily seriousness of be- 
haviour ; he who uniformly practises this outward religion, 
has the form of godliness. There needs but one thing more 
in order to his being almost a Christian, and that is, sincerity. 

(iii.) 9. By sincerity I mean, a real, inward principle of 
religion, from whence these outward actions flow. And, 
indeed, if we have not this, we have not heathen honesty , no, 
not so much of it as will answer the demand of a heathen 
Epicurean poet. Even this poor wretch, in his sober intervals, 
is able to testify, 

Oderunt peccare boni, virtutis amove ; 
Oderunt peccare mali, formidine poenae. 

So that, if a man only abstains from doing evil in order to 

9. The ' heathen Epicurean poet ' 
is Horace ; the quotation is taken 
from Ep. I. xvi. 52, but is evidently 
given from memory ; it should be : 

Oderunt peccare boni virtutis amore ; 
Tu nihil admittes in te formidine poenae. 

i.e. ' The good hate to sin through 
love of virtue ; you, on the con- 
trary, commit no crime that will tell 
against you through dread of punish- 

ment.' Horace's point is that a man 
who refrains from crime because he 
is afraid of the penalty is not a good 
man at all, and has his reward in full 
in escaping it. Just before this pas- 
sage (lines 46-8) a slave says to the 
poet, ' I am not a thief or runaway ' ; 
Horace answers, ' You have your 
reward (Habes pretium) ; you shall 
not be flogged . ' The slave continues, 
' I have not killed a man ' ; and the 

i ne Almost ^nnstian 


avoid punishment, Non pasces in cruce corvos, saith the Pagan ;„ 
"there, " T thou hast thy reward.' „But even he will not allow 
such a harmless man as this to be so much as a good Heathen. 
If, then, any man, from the same motive, viz. to avoid punish- 
ment, to avoid the loss of his friends, or his gain, or his reputa- 
tion, should not only abstain from doing evil, but also do ever 
so much good ; yea, and use all the means of grace ; yet we 
could not with any propriety say, this man is even almost a 
Christian I .If he has no better principle in his heart, he is, 
only a hypocrite altogether.^. 

"*~i6. Sincerity, therefore, is necessarily implied in the being 
almost a Christian ; a real design to serve God, a hearty desire 
to do His will. It is necessarily implied, that a man have a 
sincere view of pleasing God in all things ; in all his conversa- 
tion ; in all his actions , in all he does or leaves undone. 
This design, if any man be almost a Christian, runs through 
the whole tenor of his life. This is the moving principle, both 
in his doing good, his abstaining from evil, and his using the 
ordinances of God. 

ii. But here it will probably be inquired, ' Is it possible 
that any man living should go so far as this, and, nevertheless, 
be only almost a Christian ? What more than this can be 

reply is, ' Non pasces in cruce corvos ' 
— ' You shall not be hung on the 
cross to feed the crows.' Wesley 
fairly represents Horace's position ; 
but it is hardly correct to describe 
him as ' an Epicurean ' ; as Sir 
Theodore Martin says, ' His taste was 
as catholic in philosophy as in 
literature. He was of no school, 
but sought in the teachings of them 
all such principles as would make 
life easier, better, and happier.' And 
surely he would have smiled if he 
could have foreseen that one day he 
would be called by a young Oxford 
don a poor wretch with some few 
' sober intervals ' I 

ii. Wesley is in this point the 
victim of his severe logic. He argues : 

No one is a Christian who has not 

saving faith, working by love to God 
and man. 

A man can be imagined who is 
absolutely moral and sincere, but 
who has not this faith and love. 

Therefore such a man is not a 

This is incontestable ; but the 
point Wesley fails to observe is that 
there never was and never could be 
such a man as he describes. If there 
were, the whole argument of the 
Epistle to the Romans is falsified. 
St. Paul affirms the impossibility of 
any man keeping the law of God 
without the grace which comes 
through faith ; but Wesley's almost 
Christian has succeeded where Paul 
himself confesses to utter failure; 
' to will is present with me, but to 


Sermon II 


implied in the being a Christian altogether ? I answer, first, 

that it is possible £o go thus far, and yeLhe SuE ~a^o^~cTCJms^ 

'tian, I learn, not only from the oracles of God, but alsolrom 

the sure testimony of experience. __^ """ 

12. Brethren, great is * my boldness towards you in this 
behalf.' And ' forgive me this wrong,' if I declare my own 
folly upon the house-top, for yours and the gospel's sake, — 
Suffer me, then, to speak freely of myself, even as of another 
man. I am content to be abased, so ye may be exalted, and 
to be yet more vile for the glory of my Lord. 

13. I did go thus far for many years, as many of this place 
can testify ; using diligence to eschew all evil, and to have a 
conscience void of offence , redeeming the time , buying up 
every opportunity of doing all good to all men , constantly 

do that which is good is not.' The 
seventh chapter of Romans is the 
true account of the man who tries 
sincerely to keep the law without 
the saving grace of God. Indeed, 
as St. Paul says to the Galatians, ' If 
righteousness is through the law, 
then Christ died for nought.' Wesley 
knew this well enough, and in Ser- 
mon IX, ii. 7, speaking of one who 
is trying to live a perfect moral life, 
he says, ' Though he strive with all 
his might, he cannot conquer ; Sin 
is mightier than he. He re- 

solves against sin, but yet sins on.' 
But in this sermon he is so concerned 
to show that the root of Christianity 
is faith, realized in conscious experi- 
ence, that he forgets what he had 
said in Sermon I, ii. 2, ' Ye are saved 
(to comprise all in one word) from 
sin. This is the salvation which is 
through faith.' Jesus came to save 
His people from their sins ; not 
primarily to give them a new experi- 
ence. True, it is only through that 
new experience that they can be 
saved from their sins ; but the ex- 
perience is not an end in itself, but 
a means to an end. Wesley pictures 

a man who has achieved the end 
without the means, which is impos- 
sible ; and then argues that this 
fictitious person is not a Christian. 

Moreover, can it be said without 
absurdity that one who lives the 
life described in par. 6 has no love 
for man ; or that one who has ' a 
real design to serve God, a hearty 
desire to do His will,' and through 
whose whole life the principle runs 
of ' a sincere view of pleasing God 
in all things,' has neither faith in 
God nor love for Him ? 

The conclusion of the sermon is 
sound — that no man can be a Chris- 
tian in the scriptural sense without 
saving faith ; but it is equally true 
that no man could live such a life 
as Wesley here describes without 
saving faith. Theoretically the two 
things may be considered apart ; 
practically they are inseparable, as 
being respectively cause and effect. 

12. ' Yet more vile ' : see note in 
Journal, Standard edition, ii. 172. 

13. Wesley's description of him- 
self in Journal, January 29, 1738, 
agrees with this paragraph. ' I, 
who went to America to convert 

1 he Almost Christian 


and carefully using all the public and all the private means of 
grace ; endeavouring after a steady seriousness of behaviour, 
at all times, and in all places , and, God is my record, before 
whom I stand, doing all this in sincerity , having a real design 
to serve God ; a hearty desire to do His will in all things ; to 
please Him who had called me to ' fight the good fight,' and to 
'lay hold on eternal life.' Yet my own conscience beareth 
me witness in the Holy Ghost, that all this time I was but 
almost a Christian. 

II. If it be inquired, ' What more than this is implied in 
the being altogether a Christian ? ' I answer, 

(i.) i. First, The love of God. For thus saith His word, 
' Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and 

others, was never myself converted 
to God ' ; but later he added a note, 
' I am not sure of this.' And again, 
' I am a child of wrath, an heir of 
hell,' to which the note is later 
added, ' I believe not.' In another 
note he says, ' I had even then the 
faith of a servant, though not that 
of a son.' Writing to his brother 
Samuel five months after his con- 
version, he says, ' I was not a Chris- 
tian till the 24th of May last past.' 
But in January 1739 he says (Jour- 
nal, January 4, 1739), ' My friends 
affirm I am mad, because I said I was 
not a Christian a year ago. I affirm I 
am not a Christian now ' ; and after 
giving his reasons, which are really 
that he does not realize continuously 
the ideal of Christian experience set 
forth in the New Testament, he 
reiterates once and again, ' I am not 
a Christian.' He fails to see that 
the experience set forth there is an 
ideal to be aimed at and approxi- 
mated to ever more perfectly ; and 
that Paul never dreamed of saying, 
' I am not a Christian ' because he 
was conscious that he had not yet 
attained, neither was as yet made 

perfect. Wesley's own sane criticism 
of his error should be read along 
with what he says here ; in Sermon 
CVI, On Faith, par. 11, he says: 
' Indeed, nearly fifty years ago, 
when the Preachers, commonly called 
Methodists, began to preach sal- 

vation by faith, they were not 
sufficiently apprised of the difference 
between a servant and a child of 
God. They did not clearly under- 
stand that every one " that feareth 
God and worketh righteousness, is 
accepted of Him." They frequently 
asked those who feared God, "Do 
you know that your sins are for- 
given ? " and upon their answering 
"No," immediately replied, "Then 
you are a child of the devil." No ; that 
does not follow. It might have been 
said (and it is all that can be said 
with propriety), " Hitherto you are 
only a servant, you are not a child of 
God." ' Now surely a servant of God 
may be properly called a Christian ; 
and it is a misuse of language to say 
that Wesley during his years of 
earnest devotion at Oxford, and 
whilst he was ministering in Georgia, 
was not a Christian. 

62 Sermon II 

with all thy soul, and with all thy mind, and with all thy 
strength/ Such a love [of God] is this, as engrosses the whole 
heart, as takes up all the affections, as fills the entire capacity of 
the soul, and employs the utmost extent of all its faculties. He 
that thus loves the Lord his God, his spirit continually Jjejoic- 
eth in God his Saviour.' _ His delight is in the Lord, his LoroT 
"and his All, to whom ' in everything he giveth thanks. All his 
desire is unto God, and to the remembrance of His name.' 
His heart is ever crying out, ' Whom have I in heaven but 
Thee ? and there is none upon earth that I desire beside 
Thee.' Indeed, what can he desire beside God?. Not *hp 
world, or the things of the world : for he is Jjcrucified to the 
world, and the world crucified to him.' He is crucifiecHxL 
' the desire of the flesh, the desire of the eye, and the pride of. 
life.' Yea, he is dead to pride of every kind : for ' .lovejs aot^ 
puffed up ' ; but ' he that dwelling in love, dwelleth in God, 
"and God in him,' is less than nothing in his own eyes. 

(ii.) 2. The second thing implied in the being altogether a 
Christian is, the love of our neighbour. For thus said our 
Lord, in the following words, ' Thou shalt love thy neighbour 
as thyself.' If any man ask, ' Who is my neighbour ? ' we 
reply, Every man in the world , every child of His who is the 
Father of the spirits of all flesh. Nor may we in any wise 
except our enemies, or the enemies of God and their own souls. 
But every Christian loveth these also as himself, yea, ' as Christ 
loved us.' He that would more fully understand what manner 
of love this is, may consider St. Paul's description of it. It is 
' long-suffering and kind.' It ' envieth not.' It is not rash 
or hasty in judging. It ' is not puffed up ' , but maketh him 
that loves, the least, the servant, of all. Love ' doth not 
behave itself unseemly ' , but becometh ' all things to all men.' 
She ' seeketh not her own ' ; but only the good of others, that 
they may be saved. ' Love is not provoked.' It casteth out 
wrath, which he who hath is [not made perfect] in love. ' It 
thinketh no evil. It rejoiceth not in iniquity, but rejoiceth in 
the truth. _It covereth all things, believeth all things, hopeth 
all things, endureth all things.' 

(iii.) 3. There is yet one thing more that may be separately 

The Almost Christian 63 

considered, though it cannot actually be separate from the 
preceding, which is implied in the being altogether a Christian ; 
and that is the ground of all, even faith. Very excellent 
things are spoken of this throughout the oracles of God. 
' Every one,' saith the beloved disciple, ' that believeth is 
born of God.' ' To as many as received Him, gave He power 
to become the sons of God, even to them that believe in His 
name.' And ' this is the victory that overcometh the world, 
even our faith.' Yea, our Lord Himself declares, ' He that 
believeth in the Son hath everlasting life ; and cometh not 
into condemnation, but is passed from death unto life.' 

4. But here let no man deceive his own soul. ' It is diligently 
to be noted, the faith which bringeth not forth repentance, 
and love, and all good works, is not that right living faith 
[which is here spoken of], but a dead and devilish one. For 
even the devils believe that Christ was born of a virgin ; that 
He wrought all kinds of miracles, declaring Himself very God , 
that, for our sakes, He suffered a most painful death, to 
redeem us from death everlasting ; that He rose again the 
third day ; that He ascended into heaven, and sitteth at 
the right hand of the Father, and at the end of the world 
shall come again to judge both the quick and dead. These 
articles of our faith the devils believe, and so they believe 
all that is written in the Old and New Testament. And yet 
for all this faith, they be but devils. They remain still in 
their damnable estate, lacking the very true Christian faith.' 

5. ' The right and true Christian faith is ' (to go on in the 
words of our own Church) , ' not only to believe that Holy 
Scripture and the Articles of our Faith are true, but also to 
have a sure trust and confidence to be saved from everlasting 
damnation by Christ. It is a sure trust and confidence which 
a man hath in God, that, by the merits of Christ, his sins are 
forgiven, and he reconciled to the favour of God , whereof 
doth follow a loving heart, to obey His commandments.' 

II. 4. The quotation in this and abbreviated it somewhat, though 
the following paragraph is from the without omitting anything of import- 
Homily on the Salvation of Man- ance. 
kind, part iii ; but Wesley has 

64 Sermon 11 

6. Now, whosoever has this faith, which ' purifies the 
heart ' (by the power of God, who dwelleth therein) from pride, 
anger, desire, ' from all unrighteousness,' from ' all filthiness 
of flesh and spirit ' ; which fills it with love stronger than 
death, both to God and to all mankind , love that doeth the 
works of God, glorying to spend and to be spent for all men, 
and that endureth with joy, not only the reproach of Christ, 
the being mocked, despised, and hated of all men, but whatso- 
ever the wisdom of God permits the malice of men or devils 
to inflict, — whosoever has this faith, thus working by love, is 
not almost only, but altogether, a Christian. 

7. But who are the living witnesses of these things ? I 
beseech you, brethren, as in the presence of that God before 
whom ' hell and destruction are without a covering — how 
much more the hearts of the children of men ? ' — that each of 
you would ask his own heart, ' Am I of that number ? Do I 
so far practise justice, mercy, and truth, as even the rules of 
heathen honesty require ? If so, have I the very outside of a 
Christian ? the form of godliness ? Do I abstain from evil — 
from whatsoever is forbidden in the written Word of God ? 
Do I, whatever good my hand findeth to do, do it with my 
might ? Do I seriously use all the ordinances of God at all 
opportunities ? And is all this done with a sincere design and 
desire to please God in all things ? ' 

8. Are not many of you conscious that you never came 
thus far , that you have not been even almost a Christian ; 
that you have not come up to the standard of heathen honesty ; 
at least, not to the form of Christian godliness ? — much less 
hath God seen sincerity in you, a real design of pleasing Him 
in all things. You never so much as intended to devote all 
your words and works, your business, studies, diversions, to 
His glory. You never even designed or desired, that whatso- 
ever you did should be done ' in the name of the Lord Jesus, 
and as such should be ' a spiritual sacrifice, acceptable to God 
through Christ.' 

9. But, supposing you had, do good designs and good desires 
make a Christian ? By no means, unless they are brought to 
good effect. ' Hell is paved,' saith one, ' with good intentions.' 

The Almost Christian 


The great question of all, then, still remains. Is the love of 
God shed abroad in your heart ? Can you cry out, ' My God, 
and my All ' ? Do you desire nothing but Him ? Are you 
happy in God ? Is He your glory, your delight, your crown 
of rejoicing ? And is this commandment written in your 
heart, ' That he who loveth God love his brother also ' ? Do 
you then love your neighbour as yourself ? Do you love every 
man, even your enemies, even the enemies of God, as your 
own soul ? as Christ loved you ? Yea, dost thou believe that 
Christ loved thee, and gave Himself for thee ? Hast thou 
faith in His blood ? Believes t thou the Lamb of God hatb 
taken away thy sins, and cast them as a stone into the depth 
of the sea ? that He hath blotted out the handwriting that was 
against thee, taking it out of the way, nailing it to His cross ? 
Hast thou indeed redemption through His blood, even the 
remission of thy sins ? And doth His Spirit bear witness with 
thy spirit, that thou art a child of God ? 

10. The God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who 
now standeth in the midst of us, knoweth, that if any man 
die without this faith and this love, good it were for him that 
he had never been born. Awake, then, thou that sleepest, and 

9. This well-known proverb occurs 
in Whitlock's Zootomia (1654) in the 
form, ' It is a saying among divines 
that Hell is full of good intentions 
and meanings.' Herbert, Jacula 
Prudentum, p. 11 (1633), has, 'Hell 
is full of good meanings and wishes.' 
Boswell, Life of Johnson, II. xi, re- 
lates that Johnson quoted it : ' Sir, 
Hell is paved with good intentions.' 

10. It might be supposed from 
the opening of this paragraph that 
Wesley thought it possible that such 
a person as his almost Christian 
might be damned. His logic com- 
pels such a conclusion from the pre- 
mises ; but, as so often happened, 
his common sense was too strong in 
the long run for his logic. In the 
Minutes of 1 746 he lays it down that 
God has so much regard for the sin- 


cerity of an unbeliever that ' if he 
persevere therein, God will infallibly 
give him faith.' And in the Minutes 
of 1747 he says, ' Men may have 
many good tempers, and a blameless 
life (speaking in a loose sense), by 
nature and habit, with preventing 
grace ; and yet not have faith and 
the love of God. It is scarce pos- 
sible for us to know all the circum- 
stances relating to such persons, as 
to judge certainly concerning them. 
But this we know, if Christ is not 
revealed in them, they are not yet 
Christian believers.' The question 
is then asked : Q. 11. ' But what will 
become of them then, suppose they 
die in this state ? ' And the answer 
is : ' That is a supposition not to be 
made. They cannot die in this 
state. They must go backward or 


Sermon II 

call upon thy God : call in the day when He may be found. 
Let Him not rest, till He make His ' goodness to pass before 
thee ' , till He proclaim unto thee the name of the Lord, ' The 
Lord, the Lord God, merciful and gracious, long-suffering, and 
abundant in goodness and truth, keeping mercy for thousands, 
forgiving iniquity, and transgression, and sin.' Let no man 
persuade thee, by vain words, to rest short of this prize of thy 
high calling. But cry unto Him day and night, who, ' while 
we were without strength, died for the ungodly,' until thou 
knowest in whom thou hast believed, and canst say, ' My 
Lord, and my God ! ' Remember, ' always to pray, and not 

forward. If they continue to seek, 
they will surely find righteousness 
and peace and joy in the Holy Ghost. 
We are confirmed in this belief by 
the many instances we have seen of 
such as these finding peace at the 
last hour. And it is not impossible 
but others may then be made par- 
takers of like precious faith, and yet 
go hence without giving any out- 
ward proof of the change which 
God hath wrought.' Probably Wes- 
ley was thinking of his brother 
Samuel, who had strongly objected 
to his teaching on the subject of 
conscious assurance of salvation, and 
had been greatly disturbed by the 
reports of the fits and visions and 
other abnormal phenomena which 
had taken place ; so much so that 
in a letter to Mrs. Hutton of June 
I 7> I 738, he says, 'I heartily 
pray God to stop the progress of 
this lunacy.' He died on Novem- 
ber 6, 1 739 ; and in Journal, Novem- 
ber 21, 1739, Wesley records a visit 
to his widow, and says, ' We could 
not but rejoice at hearing from one 
who had attended my brother in all 
his weakness, that, several days 
before he went hence, God had 
given him a calm and full assurance 
of his interest in Christ. Oh may 
every one who opposes it be thus 

convinced that this doctrine is of 

Wesley's views on this whole sub- 
ject underwent considerable modi- 
fication as the years went on. On 
December 1, 1767, he records in his 
Journal : ' Being alone in the coach, 
I was considering several points of 
importance. And thus much ap- 
peared clear as the day : 

' That a man may be saved who 
cannot express himself properly con- 
cerning Imputed Righteousness. 
Therefore, to do this is not necessary 
to salvation. 

' That a man may be saved who 
has not clear conceptions of it (yea, 
that never heard the phrase). There- 
fore, clear conceptions of it are not 
necessary to salvation. Yea, it is 
not necessary to salvation to use the 
phrase at all. 

' That a pious Churchman who 
has not clear conceptions even of 
Justification by Faith may be saved. 
Therefore, clear conceptions even of 
this are not necessary to salvation. 

' That a Mystic who denies Justi- 
fication by Faith (Mr. Law, for in- 
stance) may be saved. But if so, 
what becomes of articulus stantis 
vel cadentis ecclesiae ? ' [Luther's 
famous description of the doctrine 
of Justification by Faith ; the doc- 

The Almost Christian 6y 

to faint,' till thou also canst lift up thy hand unto heaven, and 
declare to Him that liveth for ever and ever, ' Lord, Thou 
knowest all things, Thou knowest that I love Thee.' 

ii. May we all thus experience what it is to be, not almost 
only, but altogether Christians ; being justified freely by His 
grace, through the redemption that is in Jesus , knowing we 
have peace with God through Jesus Christ , rejoicing in hope 
of the glory of God ; and having the love of God shed abroad 
in our hearts, by the Holy Ghost given unto us ! 

trine by which a church stands or righteousness, is accepted with 

falls.] * If so, is it not high time Him " ' ? The quotation is from 

for us Horace, De Arte Poet. 97, where the 

„ .. „ • j 11 v tragic poet, who wishes to affect the 

Projicere ampullas et sesquipedalia verba ; ° r 

feelings of his audience, is described 

and to return to the plain word, as ' throwing overboard florid lan- 

" He that feareth God, and worketh guage and words half a yard long.' 



Preached on Sunday, April 4, 1742, before the University 

of Oxford 


Student of Christ Church 

We may be thankful that Wesley included this sermon in his first 
four volumes, although it was not preached by him but by his 
brother Charles. It is the only sermon by Charles Wesley that was 
published during his lifetime, except that on The Cause and Cure 
of Earthquakes, written in 1750 (No. CXXIX in the later editions of 
Wesley's Sermons), and the only other examples of his pulpit eloquence 
are a dozen sermons published by his widow in 181 6. On Trinity 
Sunday, May 28, 1738, a week after his conversion, he records in his 
journal, ' I then began writing my first sermon in the name of Christ 
my Prophet ' — that is, his first sermon after his new experience ; 
for he had been preaching frequently since his ordination in 1735, 
and some of his Frederica discourses are contained in Mrs. Wesley's 
volume. Until October 20, 1738, he always wrote his sermons in 
full, and read them from the manuscript; but on that day, being at 
St. Antholin's church at the corner of Budge Row and Watling Street, 
and finding the congregation very small, he ' thought of preaching 
extempore ; and spake on Justification from Rom. iii. for three- 
quarters of an hour, without hesitation.' On February 11 of the next 
year he repeated the experiment at Islington Church, and preached 
on blind Bartimaeus ' without notes.' After he began his itinerant 
work, he almost always preached extempore ; and, if Adam Clarke 
is to be trusted, he occasionally had his ' bad times ' ; but usually 
he spoke with great freedom and power, and Whitehead testifies that 
' his sermons were generally more awakening and useful ' than those 
of his brother John. Henry Moore thinks that even his University 
sermon ' falls short of many discourses which he delivered in the 
highways ' ; and says : ' Where only God and conscious sinners were 
before him, it seemed as if nothing could withstand the wisdom 
and power with which he spake : to use the expression of a pious 


Awake, thou that Steepest 69 

man, " It was all thunder and lightning." ' Again he says : ' John's 
preaching was all principles ; Charles's was all aphorisms.' In 1766 
John wrote to him : ' In connexion I beat you ; but in strong, pointed 
sentences you beat me.' In other words, John was a logician ; Charles 
a poet. In this and the Earthquake sermon no one can fail to admire 
the power of vivid description, the continuous and most telling use 
of scriptural phrases, the vehement note of personal appeal, the tre- 
mendous culminative effect of the successive short sentences, which 
come like a spray of bullets from a machine-gun. The bewildering 
swiftness of his rapier-play beats down his opponent's guard and 
does not allow him an instant to recover himself. He gains his point, 
not by dint of argument, but by the irresistible rush of the torrent of 
his emotion. 

We have from the pen of Joseph Williams, a pious dissenter of 
Kidderminster, a description of a sermon preached in the open air at 
Bristol by Charles Wesley in September 1739 : ' Standing on a table 
in a field, the preacher, with eyes and hands lifted up to heaven, 
prayed with uncommon fervour and fluency. He then preached 
about an hour in such a manner as I scarce ever heard any man preach. 
Though I have heard many a finer sermon according to the common 
taste or acceptation of sermons, I never heard any man discover such 
evident signs of a vehement desire, or labour so earnestly to convince 
his hearers, that they were all by nature in a sinful, lost, undone state. 
He showed how great a change faith in Christ would produce in the 
whole man. . . With uncommon fervour he acquitted himself as 
an ambassador of Christ. And although he used no notes, nor 

had anything in his hand but a Bible, yet he delivered his thoughts 
in a rich, copious variety of expression, and with so much propriety, 
that I could not observe anything incoherent or inanimate through 
the whole performance, which he concluded with singing, prayer, and 
the usual benediction.' He goes on to describe the evening meeting, 
in which Charles Wesley expounded part of the twelfth chapter of 
St. John ' in a sweet, savoury, spiritual manner,' and is filled with 
admiration of the fervent prayers and the heavenly singing which 
concluded the service. (Meth. Mag., 1815, p. 457.) 

This sermon was preached in St. Mary's before the University of 
Oxford on Sunday afternoon, April 4, 1742. Unfortunately, Charles's 
Journal is missing just at this time, but from John's we learn that 
Charles left London for Oxford on the previous Wednesday. John 
remained in London, and records : ( About two in the afternoon, being 
the time my brother was preaching at Oxford, before the University, 
I desired a few persons to meet with me and join in prayer.' Vicesimus 
Knox, in his Lucubrations, No. 131 (1780), complains of the dullness of 
the University sermons ; ' and yet,' he says, ' when it is considered 
that the greater part of the audience in the University church 

70 Sermon III 

always consists of very young men and of the common parishioners, I 
know not whether this apology ' (viz. that these sermons are merely 
didactic) ' can fully justify the languor of a pulpit dissertation ' ; he 
thinks a ' lively and more energetic address to the hearers ' would 
be an improvement ; and laments that ' eloquence is less aimed at 
in academical pulpits than ingenious, erudite, and inoffensive disquisi- 
tion.' He would not have found anything to complain of on this 
score in Charles Wesley's sermon 1 

In 1748 was published the Foreigner's Companion through the Uni- 
versities of Oxford and Cambridge, by Matthew Salmon, one of the 
original members of the Holy Club, who later quarrelled with the 
Wesleys. On p. 25 he says : ' The times of the day the University 
go to this church, are ten in the morning and two in the afternoon 
on Sundays and holidays, the sermon usually lasting about half an 
hour. But when I happened to be in Oxford in 1742, Mr. Wesley, the 
Methodist, of Christ Church, entertained his audience two hours, and, 
having insulted and abused all degrees, from the highest to the lowest, 
was in a manner hissed out of the pulpit by the lads.' Charles Wesley 
in his Journal, April 15, 1750, quotes this passage ; and adds : ' And 
high time for them to do so, if the historian said true ; but, unfortu- 
nately for him, I measured the time by my watch, and it was within 
the hour ; I abused neither high nor low, as my sermon, in print, will 
prove ; neither was I hissed out of the pulpit, or treated with the 
least incivility, either by young or old. What, then, shall I say to 
my old high-Church friend, whom I once so much admired ? I 
must rank him among the apocryphal writers, such as the judicious 
Dr. Mather, the wary Bishop Burnet, and the most modest Mr. Old- 
mixon.' (Apparently Charles had been reading Pope's Epistle to 
Arbuthnot, published 1735 : 

' From these the world will judge of men and books, 
Not from the Burnets, Oldmixons, and Cooks.') 

The sermon was published by Strahan the same year and went 
through at least thirty-six editions. Thomas Jackson says : ' It is doubt- 
ful whether any sermon in the English language, or in any language 
upon earth, has passed through so many editions, or has been a means 
of so much spiritual good.' 

Awake, thou that Steepest 


Awake, thou that steepest, and arise from the dead, and Christ shall 

give thee light. — Eph. v. 14. 

In discoursing on these words, I shall, with the help of 
God, — 

I. Describe the sleepers, to whom they are spoken : 
II. Enforce the exhortation, ' Awake, thou that 


III. Explain the promise made to such as do awake 
and arise : ' Christ shall give thee light/ 

1. 1. And first, as to the sleepers here spoken to. By 
sleep is signified the natural state of man ; that deep sleep 
of the soul, into which the sin of Adam hath cast all who 
spring from his loins , that supineness, indolence, and stupidity, 
that insensibility of his real condition, wherein every man 
comes into the world, and continues till the voice of God 
awakes him. 

2. Now, ' they that sleep, sleep in the night.' The state 
of nature is a state of utter darkness ; a state wherein ' darkness 
covers the earth, and gross darkness the people.' The poor 
unawakened sinner, how much knowledge soever he may have 
as to other things, has no knowledge of himself : in this respect 
' he knoweth nothing yet as he ought to know.' He knows 
not that he is a fallen spirit, whose only business in the present 
world is, to recover from his fall, to regain that image of God 
wherein he was created. He sees no necessity for the one thing 
needful, even that inward universal change, that ' birth from 
above/ figured out by baptism, which is the beginning of that 

The text is quoted by St. Paul 
from some unknown source : ' Where- 
fore he saith.' Severian, who has 
been followed by many modern com- 
mentators, thinks it was a verse from 
an early Christian hymn : 

"~Eyeipe, 6 nadetiduiv, 
koX dviara iK tQv vcicpwv, 
Kai iin.<pati<Tei <toi 6 Xpurrds. 

If 'so, it was most happily chosen 

by the greatest of Christian hymn- 
writers as his text on this occasion. 

1. par. 1. On original sin, see note 
on Sermon V, sec. i. 

2. ' Birth from above.' This is 
the rendering of the phrase in 
John iii. 3, adopted by Coverdale 
and the Bishops' Bible of 1572. The 
more usual rendering is ' again.' 
The papyri furnish examples of both 

72 Sermon III 

total renovation, that sanctification of spirit, soul, and body, 
' without which no man shall see the Lord.' 

3. Full of all diseases as he is, he fancies himself in perfect 
health. Fast bound in misery and iron, he dreams that he is 
[happy and]*at liberty. He says, ' Peace ! Peace ! ' while the 
devil, as ' a strong man armed,' is in full possession of his soul. 
He sleeps on still, and takes his rest, though hell is moved from 
beneath to meet him ; though the pit from whence there is no 
return hath opened its mouth to swallow him up. A fire is 
kindled around him, yet he knoweth it not , yea, it burns him, 
yet he lays it not to heart. 

4. By one who sleeps, we are, therefore, to understand 
(and would to God we might all understand it !) a sinner 
satisfied in his sins , contented to remain in his fallen state, 
to live and die without the image of God ; one who is ignorant 
both of his disease, and of the only remedy for it , one who 
never was warned, or never regarded the warning voice of 
God, ' to flee from the wrath to come ' , one that never yet 
saw he was in danger of hell-fire, or cried out in the earnestness 
of his soul, ' What must I do to be saved ? ' 

5. If this sleeper be not outwardly vicious, his sleep is 
usually the deepest of all : whether he be of the Laodicean 
spirit, ' neither cold nor hot,' but a quiet, rational, inoffensive, 
good-natured professor of the religion of his fathers ; or 
whether he be zealous and orthodox, and, ' after the most 
straitest sect of our religion,' live ' a Pharisee ' ; that is, 
according to the scriptural account, one that justifies himself ; 
one that labours to establish his own righteousness, as the 
ground of his acceptance with God. 

6. This is he, who, ' having a form of godliness, denies the 
power thereof ' , yea, and probably reviles it, wheresoever it 
is found, as mere extravagance and delusion. Meanwhile, 
the wretched self-deceiver thanks God, that he is ' not as 

meanings. Westcott, after a full not effected, by baptism ; (2) as the 

discussion of the passage, decides in beginning, not the complete attain- 

favour of ' again.' ment, of sanctification. Cf. Sermon 

It is observable that regeneration I, ii. 6. 
is here described (1) as figured out, 

Awake, thou that Steepest 73 

other men are ; adulterers, unjust, extortioners ' ; no, he doeth 
no wrong to any man. He ' fasts twice in a week/ uses all 
the means of grace, is constant at church and sacrament ; yea, 
and ' gives tithes of all that he has ' ; does all the good that 
he can : ' touching the righteousness of the law,' he is ' blame- 
less ' : he wants nothing of godliness, but the power ; nothing 
of religion, but the spirit ; nothing of Christianity, but the 
truth and the life. 

7. But know ye not, that, however highly esteemed among 
men such a Christian as this may be, he is an abomination in 
the sight of God, and an heir of every woe which the Son of 
God, yesterday, to-day, and for ever, denounces against 
' scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites ' ? He hath ' made clean 
the outside of the cup and the platter,' but within is full of 
all filthiness. ' An evil disease cleaveth still unto him, so that 
his inward parts are very wickedness/ Our Lord fitly com- 
pares him to a ' painted sepulchre,' which ' appears beautiful 
without ' ; but, nevertheless, is ' full of dead men's bones, and 
of all uncleanness.' The bones indeed are no longer dry ; the 
sinews and flesh are come upon them, and the skin covers 
them above but there is no breath in them, no Spirit of the 
living God. And, ' if any man have not the Spirit of Christ, 
he is none of His.' ' Ye are Christ's, if so be that the Spirit 
of God dwell in you ' : but, if not, God knoweth that ye abide 
in death, even until now. 

8. This is another character of the sleeper here spoken to. 
He abides in death, though he knows it not. He is dead unto 
God, ' dead in trespasses and sins.' For, ' to be carnally 
minded is death.' Even as it is written, ' By one man sin 
entered into the world, and death by sin , and so death passed 
upon all men ' ; not only temporal death, but likewise spiritual 
and eternal. ' In that day that thou eatest,' said God to 
Adam, ' thou shalt surely die ' not bodily (unless as he then 
became mortal), but spiritually thou shalt lose the life of thy 
soul , thou shalt die to God ; shalt be separated from Him, 
thy essential life and happiness. 

7. The ' sinews and flesh ' are taken to mean the outward form of re- 

74 Sermon III 

9. Thus first was dissolved the vital union of our soul with 
God ; insomuch that ' in the midst of ' natural ' life, we 
are ' now in spiritual ' death.' And herein we remain till the 
Second Adam becomes a quickening Spirit to us , till He raises 
the dead, the dead in sin, in pleasure, riches, or honours. But, 
before any dead soul can live, he ' hears ' (hearkens to) ' the 
voice of the Son of God ' he is made sensible of his lost estate, 
and receives the sentence of death in himself. He knows 
himself to be ' dead while he liveth ' , dead to God, and all 
the things of God ; having no more power to perform the 
actions of a living Christian, than a dead, body to perform 
the functions of a living man. 

10. And most certain it is, that one dead in sin has not 
' senses exercised to discern spiritual good and evil.' ' Having 
eyes, he sees not , he hath ears, and hears not.' He doth 
not ' taste and see that the Lord is gracious.' He ' hath not 
seen God at any time,' nor ' heard His voice,' nor ' handled 
the word of life.' In vain is the name of Jesus ' like ointment 
poured forth, and all His garments smell of myrrh, aloes, and 
cassia.' The soul that sleepeth in death hath no perception of 
any objects of this kind. His heart is ' past feeling,' and 
understandeth none of these things. 

11. And hence, having no spiritual senses, no inlets of 
spiritual knowledge, the natural man receiveth not the things 
of the Spirit of God ; nay, he is so far from receiving them, 
that whatsoever is spiritually discerned is mere foolishness 
unto him. He is not content with being utterly ignorant of 
spiritual things, but he denies the very existence of them. And 
spiritual sensation itself is to him the foolishness of folly. 
' How,' saith he, ' can these things be ? How can any man 
know that he is alive to God ? ' Even as you know that your 
body is now alive. Faith is the life of the soul , and if ye have 
this life abiding in you, ye want no marks to evidence it to 
yourself, but eXeyxos Tlvev^aro^, that divine consciousness, that 

9. Cf. with this and the two follow- It was probably suggested by 

ing sections, Sermon XV. i. 6-10. John xvi. 8, ' He shall convict 

11. The phrase ZXeyxos IlpetfiaTos (iUyfr) the world in respect of sin, 

does not occur in the New Testament. &c.,' and Heb. xi. 1, 'Faith is the 

Awake, thou that Steepest 75 

witness of God, which is more and greater than ten thousand 
human witnesses. 

12. If He doth not now bear witness with thy spirit, that 
thou art a child of God, O that He might convince thee, thou 
poor unawakened sinner, by His demonstration and power, 
that thou art a child of the devil ! O that, as I prophesy, 
there might now be ' a noise and a shaking ' ; and may ' the 
bones come together, bone to his bone ! ' Then ' come from 
the four winds, Breath ! and breathe on these slain, that 
they may live ! ' And do not ye harden your hearts, and 
resist the Holy Ghost, who even now is come to convince you 
of sin, ' because you believe not on the name of the only 
begotten Son of God.' 

11. 1. Wherefore, ' awake, thou that sleepest, and arise 
from the dead.' God calleth thee now by my mouth , and 
bids thee know thyself, thou fallen spirit, thy true state and 

"only concern below. ' What meanest thou, O sleeper ? Arise ! 
Call upon thy God, if so be thy God will think upon thee, 
that thou perish not.' A mighty tempest is stirred up round 
about thee, and thou art sinking into the depths of perdition, 
the gulf of God's judgements. If thou wouldest escape them, 
cast thyself into them. ' Judge thyself, and thou shalt not 
be judged of the Lord.' 

2. Awake, awake ! Stand up this moment, lest thou ' drink 
at the Lord's hand the cup of His fury.' Stir up thyself to 
lay hold on the Lord, the Lord thy Righteousness, mighty to 
save ! ' Shake thyself from the dust.' At least, let the earth- 
quake of God's threatenings shake thee. Awake, and cry 
out with the trembling jailer, ' What must I do to be saved ? ' 
And never rest till thou belie vest on the Lord Jesus, 
with a faith which is His gift, by the operation of His Spirit. 

fKeyxos of things not seen.' The II. I. ' Cast thyself into them.' 

preacher does not distinguish so A curious application of the story 

accurately as his brother the witness of Jonah ; as Jonah escaped the 

of our own spirit and the witness of storm by being cast into the sea, so 

the Spirit of God. we, to escape God's judgements, must 

12. ' Child of the devil.' But see acquiesce in them, judge ourselves 
note on Sermon II, i. 13. by His standards. 

76 Sermon III 

3. If I speak to any one of you, more than to another, it is 
to thee, who thinkest thyself unconcerned in this exhortation. 
* I have a message from God unto thee.' In His name, I 
warn thee ' to flee from the wrath to come/ Thou unholy 
soul, see thy picture in condemned Peter, lying in the dark 
dungeon, between the soldiers, bound with two chains, the 
keepers before the door keeping the prison. The night is 
far spent, the morning is at hand, when thou art to be brought 
forth to execution. And in these dreadful circumstances, 
thou art fast asleep ; thou art fast asleep in the devil's arms, 
on the brink of the pit, in the jaws of everlasting destruction ! 

4. O may the Angel of the Lord come upon thee, and the 
light shine into thy prison ! And mayest thou feel the stroke 
of an Almighty Hand, raising thee, with, ' Arise up quickly, 
gird thyself, and bind on thy sandals, cast thy garment about 
thee, and follow Me.' 

5. Awake, thou everlasting spirit, out of thy dream of 
worldly happiness ! Did not God create thee for Himself ? 
Then thou canst not rest till thou res test in Him. Return, 
thou wanderer ! Fly back to thy ark. This is not thy home. 
Think not of building tabernacles here. Thou art but a 
stranger, a sojourner upon earth ; a creature of a day, but 
just launching out into an unchangeable state. Make haste. 
Eternity is at hand. Eternity depends on this moment. An 
eternity of happiness, or an eternity of misery ! 

6. In what state is thy soul ? Was God, while I am yet 
speaking, to require it of thee, art thou ready to meet death 
and judgement ? Canst thou stand in His sight, who is of 
' purer eyes than to behold iniquity ' ? Art thou ' meet to 
be partaker of the inheritance of the saints in light ' ? Hast 
thou ' fought a good fight, and kept the faith ' ? Hast thou 
secured the one thing needful ? Hast thou recovered the 
image of God, even righteousness and true holiness ? Hast 

5. Compare Augustine, Confes- liebe du,' made at Savannah in 1736, 

sions, I. 1 : ' Thou hast created us and printed in Psalms and Hymns, 

for Thyself, and our heart is rest- 1738 ; Hymn 531 in the present 

less till it finds rest in Thee.' And Hymnbook. 
John Wesley's translation of Ter- My heart ls pa i ne d, nor can It be 

steegen's hymn, ' Verborgne Gottes- At rest, till it finds rest in Thee. 

Awake, thou that Steepest 


thou put off the old man, and put on the new ? Art thou 
clothed upon with Christ ? 

7. Hast thou oil in thy lamp ? grace in thy heart ? Dost 
thou ' love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all 
thy mind, and with all thy soul, and with all thy strength ' ? 
Is that mind in thee, which was also in Christ Jesus ? Art 
thou a Christian indeed ; that is, a new creature ? Are old 
things passed away, and all things become new ? 

8. Art thou a ' partaker of the divine nature ' ? Knowest 
thou not that ' Christ is in thee, except thou be reprobate ' ? 
Knowest thou that God ' dwelleth in thee, and thou in God, 
by His Spirit, which He hath given thee ' ? Knowest thou 
not that ' thy body is a temple of the Holy Ghost, which thou 
hast of God ' ? Hast thou the witness in thyself ? the earnest 
of thine inheritance? [Art thou sealed by that Spirit of 
Promise, unto the day of redemption ? ] Hast thou ' received 
the Holy Ghost ' ? Or dost thou start at the question, not 
knowing ' whether there be any Holy Ghost ' ? 

9. If it offends thee, be thou assured, that thou neither 
art a Christian, nor desirest to be one. Nay, thy very prayer 
is turned into sin ; and thou hast solemnly mocked God this 
very day, by praying for the inspiration of His Holy Spirit, 
when thou didst not believe there was any such thing to be 

10. Yet, on the authority of God's Word, and our own 
Church, I must repeat the question, ' Hast thou received the 
Holy Ghost ? ' If thou hast not, thou art not yet a Christian. 
For a Christian is a man that is ' anointed with the Holy 
Ghost and with power.' Thou art not yet made a partaker 
of pure religion and undefiled. Dost thou know what religion 

9. The reference is to the Collect 
at the beginning of the Communion 
Service : ' Cleanse the thoughts of 
our hearts by the inspiration of Thy 
Holy Spirit.' 

10. ' Anointed with the Holy 
Ghost.' Evidently a reminiscence 
of Acts x. 38 ; it is said there, not 
of every Christian, but of our Lord. 
This is the sort of slip which can 

hardly be avoided at times by one 
whose memory is so richly stored 
with Scripture phrases as Charles 
Wesley's was. The late Dr. Pope 
was usually very happy in his use of 
Scripture ; but once in the Didsbury 
Chapel he is reported to have said, 
speaking of the providential care of 
God, ' Yes, brethren, we are not 
ignorant of his devices.' Then sud- 


Sermon III 

is ? — that it is a participation of the divine nature ; the life of ! 
God in the soul of man ; Christ formed in the heart ; ' Christ 
in thee, the hope of glory ' ; happiness and holiness ; heaven 
begun upon earth ; ' a kingdom of God within thee ; not meat * 
and drink/ no outward thing ; ' but righteousness, and peace, 
and joy in the Holy Ghost ' , an everlasting kingdom brought 
into thy soul ; a ' peace of God, that passeth all understand- 
ing ' ; a ' joy unspeakable, and full of glory ' ? 

ii. Knowest thou, that 'in Jesus Christ, neither circum- 
cision availeth anything, nor uncircumcision ; but faith that 
worketh by love ' , but a new creation ? Seest thou the 
necessity of that inward change, that spiritual birth, that life 
from the dead, that holiness ? And art thou thoroughly 
convinced, that without it no man shall see the Lord ? Art 
thou labouring after it ? — ' giving all diligence to make thy 
calling and election sure/ ' working out thy salvation with fear 
and trembling/ ' agonizing to enter in at the strait gate ' ? 
Art thou in earnest about thy soul ? And canst thou tell the 
Searcher of hearts, ' Thou, O God, art the thing that I long 
for ! Lord, Thou knowest all things , Thou knowest that I 
would love Thee ! ' 

12. Thou hopest to be saved , but what reason hast thou 
to give of the hope that is in thee ? Is it because thou hast 
done no harm ? or, because thou hast done much good ? or, 
because thou art not like other men , but wise, or learned, or 
honest, and morally good ; esteemed of men, and of a fair 
reputation ? Alas ! all this will never bring thee to God. It 
is in His account lighter than vanity. Dost thou know Jesus 
Christ, whom He hath sent ? Hath He taught thee, that ' by 
grace we are saved through faith ; and that not of ourselves : 

denly recollecting the context, he 
ejaculated in horror, ' I beg your 
pardon I ' The next quotation is 
even less appropriate. ' Pure re- 
ligion ' should rather be translated 
' Pure and undefiled religious ser- 
vice, or observance ' ; and it is 
denned, in contradistinction to the 
Pharisaic idea of ecclesiastical cere- 
monial, as ' visiting the fatherless 

and the widow,' &c. The passage 
has no relation to the main conten- 
tion of this paragraph. 

ii. 'Agonizing.' Charles Wesley 
takes this as the closest representa- 
tive in English of the Greek aywvlfrffde 
in Luke xiii. 24. In the Notes John 
translates it, ' Agonize. Strive as 
in an agony.' But none of the Eng- 
lish versions has dared to adopt it. 

Awake, thou that Steepest 79 

it is the gift of God : not of works, lest any man should boast ' ? 
Hast thou received the faithful saying, as the whole foundation 
of thy hope, ' that Jesus Christ came into the world to save 
sinners ' ? Hast thou learned what that meaneth, ' I came 
not to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance ? I am not 
sent, but unto the lost sheep ' ? Art thou (he that heareth, 
let him understand !) lost, dead, damned already ? Dost thou 
know thy deserts ? Dost thou feel thy wants ? Art thou 
' poor in spirit ' ? mourning for God, and refusing to be com- 
forted ? Is the prodigal ' come to himself/ and well content 
to be therefore thought ' beside himself ' by those who are 
still feeding upon the husks which he hath left ? Art thou 
willing to live godly in Christ Jesus ? And dost thou therefore 
suffer persecution ? Do men say all manner of evil against 
thee falsely, for the Son of Man's sake ? 

13. O that in all these questions ye may hear the voice that 
wakes the dead , and feel that hammer of the Word, which 
breaketh the rocks in pieces ! ' If ye will hear His voice to-day, 
while it is called to-day, harden not your hearts.' Now, 
' awake, thou that sleepest ' in spiritual death, that thou sleep 
not in death eternal ! Feel thy lost estate, and ' arise from 
the dead.' Leave thine old companions in sin and death. 
Follow thou Jesus, and let the dead bury their dead. ' Save 
thyself from this untoward generation.' ' Come out from 
among them, and be thou separate, and touch not the unclean 
thing, and the Lord shall receive thee.' ' Christ shall give 
thee light.' 

III. 1. This promise, I come, lastly, to explain. And how 
encouraging a consideration is this, that whosoever thou art, 
who obeyest His call, thou canst not seek His face in vain ! If 
thou even now ' awakest, and arisest from the dead,' He hath 
bound Himself to ' give thee light.' ' The Lord shall give 
thee grace and glory ' , the light of His grace here, and the 
light of His glory when thou receivest the crown that fadeth 
not away. ' Thy light shall break forth as the morning, and 
thy darkness be as the noon-day ' ' God, who commanded 
the light to shine out of darkness, shall shine in thy heart , to 

8o Sermon III 

give the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus 
Christ.' ' On them that fear the Lord shall the Sun of Right- 
eousness arise with healing in His wings/ And in that day it 
shall be said unto thee, ' Arise, shine , for thy light is come, 
and the glory of the Lord is risen upon thee.' For Christ 
shall reveal Himself in thee : and He is the true Light. 

2. God is light, and will give Himself to every awakened 
sinner that waiteth for Him , and thou shalt then be a temple 
of the living God, and Christ shall ' dwell in thy heart by 
faith ' and, ' being rooted and grounded in love, thou shalt 
be able to comprehend with all saints, what is the breadth, 
and length, and depth, and height of that love of Christ which 
passeth knowledge,' [that thou may est be filled with all the 
fullness of God.] 

3. Ye see your calling, brethren. We are called to be ' an 
habitation of God through His Spirit ' ; and, through His 
Spirit dwelling in us, to be saints here, and partakers of the 
inheritance of the saints in light. So exceeding great are the 
promises which are given unto us, actually given unto us who 
believe ! For by faith ' we receive, not the spirit of the world, 
but the Spirit which is of God ' — the sum of all the promises — 
' that we may know the things that are freely given to us of 


4. The Spirit of Christ is that great gift of God which, at 
sundry times, and in divers manners, He hath promised to man, 
and hath fully bestowed since the time that Christ was glorified. 
Those promises, before made to the fathers, He hath thus 
fulfilled ' I will put My Spirit within you, and cause you to 
walk in My statutes ' (Ezek. xxxvi. 27). 'I will pour water 
upon him that is thirsty, and floods upon the dry ground : 
I will pour My Spirit upon thy seed, and My blessing upon 
thine offspring ' (Isa. xliv. 3). 

5. Ye may all be living witnesses of these things , of remis- 
sion of sins, and the gift of the Holy Ghost. ' If thou canst 
believe, all things are possible to him that believeth.' ' Who 
among you is there that feareth the Lord, and ' yet walketh 
' in darkness, and hath no light ' ? I ask thee, in the name 
of Jesus, Belie vest thou that His arm is not shortened at all ? 

Awake, thou that Steepest 


that He is still mighty to save ? that He is the same yesterday, 
to-day, and for ever ? that He hath now power on earth to 
forgive sins ? ' Son, be of good cheer , thy sins are forgiven.' 
God, for Christ's sake, hath forgiven thee. Receive this, 
' not as the word of man ; but as it is indeed, the word of 
God ' , and thou art justified freely through faith. Thou 
shalt be sanctified also through faith which is in Jesus, and 
shalt set to thy seal, even thine, that ' God hath given unto us 
eternal life, and this life is in His Son.' 

6. Men and brethren, let me freely speak unto you ; and 
suffer ye the word of exhortation, even from one the least 
esteemed in the Church. Your conscience beareth you witness 
in the Holy Ghost, that these things are so, if so be ye have 
tasted that the Lord is gracious. ' This is eternal life, to know 
the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom He hath sent.' 
This experimental knowledge, and this alone, is true Chris- 
tianity. He is a Christian who hath received the Spirit of 
Christ. He is not a Christian who hath not received Him. 
Neither is it possible to have received Him, and not know it. 

III. 6. ' Neither is it possible,' &c. 
But John Wesley wrote to his 
brother Samuel on October 23, 1738, 
five months after his conversion, 
' This witness of the Spirit I have 
not.' He writes again in November, 
' This witness, I believe, is neces- 
sary for my salvation. How far in- 
vincible ignorance may excuse others, 
I know not.' The question is pro- 
posed in Minutes, August 2, 1745 
(Charles being present) : ' Q. 1. Is 
an assurance of God's pardoning love 
absolutely necessary to our being 
in His favour ? ' The gist of the 
answers is: ' (1) There may be exempt 
cases ; (2) We incline to think it is 
not necessary to outward holiness ; 
(3) In regard to Papists, Quakers, 
and others who deny that they have 
it, love hopeth all things ; (4) As to 
those who die without it, we deter- 
mine nothing ; we leave his soul in 
the hands of Him that made it ; (5) 


We allow that there may be infinite 
degrees in seeing God.' The ques- 
tion is discussed again in Minutes, 
June 16, 1747. After proving that 
the doctrine of assurance is scrip- 
tural, he asks (Q. 10) whether matter 
of fact does not prove that justifying 
faith does not necessarily imply 
assurance ; and two cases are speci- 
fically mentioned under the disguise 
of initials. The answer is, ' This 
contains the very strength of the 
cause ' ; and the explanation which 
follows is not at all decisive. There 
may be exempt cases ; general doc- 
trines must not be grounded on a 
few experiments ; a moral life does 
not prove that a man has faith ; we 
do not know enough to judge certainly 
about these persons. But if they 
have not conscious faith, they are 
not Christian believers ; yet it is 
not to be supposed that they can die 
in such a state. In 1745 John 


Sermon III 

' For, at that day ' (when He cometh, saith our Lord), ' ye 
shall know that I am in My Father, and you in Me, and I in 
you.' This is that ' Spirit of Truth, whom the world cannot 
receive, because it seeth Him not, neither knoweth Him but 
ye know Him ; for He dwelleth with you, and shall be in you ' 
(John xiv. 17). 

7. The world cannot receive Him, but utterly rejecteth the 
Promise of the Father, contradicting and blaspheming. But 
every spirit which confesseth not this is not of God. Yea, 
' this is that spirit of Antichrist, whereof ye have heard that 
it should come into the world . and even now it is in the world.' 

Wesley writes to John Smith (prob- 
ably a pseudonym for Thomas 
Seeker), ' I will still believe, none is 
a true Christian till he experiences 
it,' i.e. the inspiration of the Holy 
Spirit, which none can have ' with- 
out perceiving it as clearly as he 
does the light of the sun.' But on 
the other hand, John Wesley, in a 
letter to Charles (Works, xii. 113), 
says, ' If justifying faith necessarily 
implies such an explicit assurance of 
pardon, then every one who has it 
not is under the wrath and under 
the curse of God. But this is a sup- 
position contrary to Scripture as 
well as to experience.' In Ser- 
mon XLV (1767) he allows that there 
may be a real degree of long-suffer- 
ing, of gentleness, of fidelity, meek- 
ness, temperance, before we have a 
testimony of our acceptance ; though 
we are not to rest here, but con- 
tinually to cry to God for the witness 
of the Spirit. 

In a letter to Melville Home, 
Fletcher's successor at Madeley, 
John Wesley says, ' When fifty years 
ago my brother Charles and I, in 
the simplicity of our hearts, told the 
good people of England that unless 
they knew their sins were forgiven, 
they were under the wrath and curse 
of God, I marvel, Melville, they did 

not stone us ! The Methodists, I 
hope, know better now ; we preach 
assurance as we always did, as a 
common privilege of the children of 
God ; but we do not enforce it, under 
the pain of damnation, denounced 
on all who enjoy it not.' (Southey's 
Life of Wesley, 1st ed., i. 295.) 

Wesley is right in saying that this 
' is the main doctrine of the Metho- 
dists.' Christianity is not a creed 
nor a system of ethics ; it is an ex- 
perience, and therefore must be ex- 
perienced. But he allows that there 
are degrees in this experience ; and 
if he had more explicitly admitted 
that through prejudice, or ignorance, 
or false humility, or temperament, 
different people may describe their 
experience in different terms ; and 
if he had not at times complicated 
the question by his anxiety to deter- 
mine what will happen to good 
people who die without having felt 
able to profess that they enjoyed a 
definite assurance of salvation, it 
is hard to see how any objection to 
his doctrine could be maintained. 

7. The temptation to call his 
opponents names is one to which an 
impassioned orator is peculiarly 
liable. The word Antichrist is only 
used by St. John, and he employs it 
in a perfectly definite sense. It is 

Awake , thou that Steepest 


He is Antichrist whosoever denies the inspiration of the Holy 
Ghost, or that the indwelling Spirit of God is the common 
privilege of all believers, the blessing of the gospel, the unspeak- 
able gift, the universal promise, the criterion of a real Christian. 

8. It nothing helps them to say, ' We do not deny the 
assistance of God's Spirit , but only this inspiration, this 
receiving the Holy Ghost, and being sensible of it. It is only 
this feeling of the Spirit, this being moved by the Spirit, or filled 
with it, which we deny to have any place in sound religion.' 
But, in only denying this, you deny the whole Scriptures , the 
whole truth, and promise, and testimony of God. 

9. Our own excellent Church knows nothing of this devilish 
distinction , but speaks plainly of ' feeling the Spirit of Christ ' ; 
of being ' moved by the Holy Ghost ' and knowing and ' feeling 
there is no other name than that of Jesus,' whereby we can 
receive life and salvation. She teaches us all to pray for the 
' inspiration of the Holy Spirit ' ; yea, that we may be ' filled 
with the Holy Ghost.' Nay, and every Presbyter of hers 
professes to receive the Holy Ghost by the imposition of hands. 
Therefore, to deny any of these, is, in effect, to renounce the 
Church of England, as well as the whole Christian revelation. 

10. But ' the wisdom of God ' was always ' foolishness 
with men.' No marvel, then, that the great mystery of the 
gospel should be now also ' hid from the wise and prudent,' 
as well as in the days of old , that it should be almost univer- 

' he who denies that Jesus is the 
Messiah ' ; it is the spirit ' which 
confesseth not that Jesus is from 
God ' ; it is exhibited by those ' who 
do not confess Jesus the Messiah 
coming in flesh.' There is no justi- 
fication for applying it as the preacher 
does here. 

9. The references are as follows : 

Article xvii : The doctrine of Election is 
full of comfort ' to godly persons, and 
such as feel in themselves the working of 
the Spirit of Christ.' 

Office for Ordering of Deacons : ' Do you 
trust that you are inwardly moved by 
the Holy Ghost to take upon you this 
Office and Ministration ? ' 

Order for Visitation of Sick : ' The Almighty 
Lord make thee know and feel that 

there is none other Name under heaven 
given to man, in whom, and through 
whom, thou mayest receive health and 
salvation, but only the name of our Lord 

Order for Holy Communion : ' Cleanse the 
thoughts of our hearts by the inspiration 
of Thy Holy Spirit.' 

Order for Confirmation : ' Strengthen them 
with the Holy Ghost the Com- 

Office for Ordering of Priests : ' Receive the 
Holy Ghost for the Office and Work of a 
Priest in the Church of God, now com- 
mitted unto thee by the Imposition of 
our hands.' 


Sermon III 

sally denied, ridiculed, and exploded, as mere frenzy j and that 
all who dare avow it still are branded with the names of madmen 
and enthusiasts ! This is ' that falling away ' which was to 
come ; that general apostasy of all orders and degrees of men, 
which we even now find to have overspread the earth. ' Run 
to and fro in the streets of Jerusalem, and see if ye can find a 
man,' a man that loveth the Lord his God with all his heart, 
and serveth Him with all his strength. How does our own 
land mourn (that we look no farther) under the overflowings 
of ungodliness ! What villanies of every kind are committed 
day by day ; yea, too often with impunity, by those who sin 
with a high hand, and glory in their shame ! Who can reckon 
up the oaths, curses, profaneness, blasphemies , the lying, 
slandering, evil-speaking , the Sabbath-breaking, gluttony, 
drunkenness, revenge , the whoredoms, adulteries, and various 
uncleanness ; the frauds, injustice, oppression, extortion, 
which overspread our land as a flood ? 

ii. And even among those who have kept themselves 
pure from these grosser abominations, how much anger 
and pride, how much sloth and idleness, how much softness 
and effeminacy, how much luxury and self-indulgence, how 
much covetousness and ambition, how much thirst of praise, 
how much love of the world, how much fear of man, is to be 
found ! Meanwhile, how little of true religion ! For, where 
is he that loveth either God or his neighbour, as He hath given 

10. The word ' enthusiast ' was 
almost always used in the eighteenth 
century in the sense of ' one who 
holds extravagant and visionary re- 
ligious opinions,' ' one who pretends 
to special divine illumination.' No 
term of abuse was more often applied 
to the early Methodists. Horace 
Walpole, in a letter dated October 10, 
1766, in describing a sermon by 
John Wesley, says, ' Towards the 
end he exalted his voice, and acted 
very ugly enthusiasm ' ; in other 
words, he appealed to the feelings 
of his hearers — a 'terrible lapse from 
the good form which was the crown 

of all the virtues with the correct 
eighteenth-century wits. For a 
more detailed denunciation of the 
sins of the time, see Farther Appeal 
to Men of Reason and Religion, 
Part II, sec. ii. 

The ' falling away ' is a quotation 
from 2 Thess. ii. 8. Whatever St. 
Paul meant by it, he was certainly 
not thinking of the eighteenth cen- 
tury. But there has hardly ever 
been an earnest reformer since the 
beginning of the Christian era who 
has not thought that he was living 
in the days of the great Apostasis ! 

Awake, thou that Steepest 85 

* us commandment ? On the one hand, are those who have 

* not so much as the form of godliness , on the other, those who 
have the form only : there stands the open, there the painted, 
sepulchre. So that in very deed, whosoever were earnestly 

c to behold any public gathering together of the people (I fear 

■£ those in our churches are not to be excepted), might easily 

k perceive, ' that the one part were Sadducees, and the other 

& Pharisees ' : the one having almost as little concern about 

fc religion, as if there were ' no resurrection, neither angel nor 

t spirit ' , and the other making it a mere lifeless form, a dull 

i round of external performances, without either true faith, or 

ie the love of God, or joy in the Holy Ghost ! 

i 12. Would to God I could except us of this place ! 

^ ' Brethren, my heart's desire, and prayer to God, for you is, 

\i that ye may be saved ' from this overflowing of ungodliness ; 

£ and that here may its proud waves be stayed ! But is it so 

indeed ? God knoweth, yea, and our own consciences, it is 
^ not. Ye have not kept yourselves pure. Corrupt are we 

A 1 also and abominable , and few are there that understand any 

more ; few that worship God in spirit and in truth. We, too, 
are ' a generation that set not our hearts aright, and whose 
spirit cleaveth not steadfastly unto God.' He hath appointed 
us indeed to be ' the salt of the earth : but if the salt hath 
lost its savour, it is thenceforth good for nothing , but to be 
cast out, and to be trodden underfoot of men.' 

13. And ' shall I not visit for these things, saith the Lord ? 
j.v- Shall not My soul be avenged on such a nation as this ? ' Yea, 

we know not how soon He may say to the sword, ' Sword . 
- go through this land ! ' He hath given us long space to repent. 

'f He lets us alone this year also but He warns and awakens 

us by thunder. His judgements are abroad in the earth , and 
W we have all reason to expect the heaviest of all, even that 

^ He ' should come unto us quickly, and remove our candlestick 

out of its place, except we repent and do the first works ' , 
unless we return to the principles of the Reformation, the 



{(■ 12. ' This place ' is, of course, the see the latter part of Sermon IV 

University of Oxford. For a fuller and Sermon CXXXIV. 
and more severe indictment of it, 


Sermon III 

truth and simplicity of the gospel. Perhaps we are now 
resisting the last effort of divine grace to save us. Perhaps 
we have wellnigh ' filled up the measure of our iniquities,' by 
rejecting the counsel of God against ourselves, and casting 
out His messengers. 

14. O God, ' in the midst of wrath, remember mercy ' ! 
Be glorified in our reformation, not in our destruction ! Let 
us ' hear the rod, and Him that appointed it ' ! Now that 
Thy ' judgements are abroad in the earth,' let the inhabitants 
of the world ' learn righteousness ' ! 

15. My brethren, it is high time for us to awake out of sleep 
before the ' great trumpet of the Lord be blown,' and our land 
become a field of blood. O may we speedily see the things 
that make for our peace, before they are hid from our eyes ! 
' Turn Thou us, O good Lord, and let Thine anger cease from 
us. O Lord, look down from heaven, behold and visit this 
vine ' , and cause us to know ' the time of our visitation.' 
' Help us, O God of our salvation, for the glory of Thy name ! 
O deliver us, and be merciful to our sins, for Thy name's sake ! 
And so we will not go back from Thee. O let us live, and we 
shall call upon Thy name. Turn us again, O Lord God of 
Hosts ! Show the light of Thy countenance, and we shall be 

' Now unto Him that is able to do exceeding abundantly 
above all that we can ask or think, according to the power that 
worketh in us, unto Him be glory in the Church by Christ Jesus 
throughout all ages, world without end. Amen ! ' 

15. England was engaged in a 
war against Spain. Vernon's attacks 
on Carthagena and Santiago had 
miserably failed ; and Walpole, after 
twenty-one years of power, found 
himself on January 21, 1742, with a 
bare majority of three in the House, 
and resigned. Carteret and his 
' drunken administration ' came into 

office ; and he threw himself with 
vigour into the war on behalf of 
Maria Theresa. Meanwhile, the 
Young Pretender was watching the 
course of events, and was preparing 
for the attempt to regain the throne, 
which came to a head in 1745. Well 
might the preacher look forward with 
anxiety into the future ! 





Preached at St. Mary's, Oxford, before the University, 

on August 24, 1744 

This was the last sermon preached before the University by Wesley. 
The Sunday sermons were preached at two in the afternoon, but the 
service on saints' days began at ten in the morning. As the hour 
booms from the Tom Tower of Christ Church on August 24 (St. 
Bartholomew's Day), 1744, a stately procession enters the venerable 
Church of St. Mary the Virgin, headed by the Esquire Bedel carrying 
the insignia of the Vice-Chancellor ; next comes the Vice-Chancellor 
himself in his robes, followed by the preacher in full canonicals ; after 
him walks the Proctors, and the Doctors of Divinity in all the glory 
of their scarlet — capa et caputio coccineo induti — bring up the rear. 
The vast congregation rises as they enter ; and when they reach the 
centre of the church, the Vice-Chancellor bows to the preacher and 
moves to his throne, whilst John Wesley ascends the pulpit opposite. 
A hymn is sung, and the ' bidding prayer ' is offered ; and with no 
further preface the text is announced. ' And they were all filled 
with the Holy Ghost.' We have four accounts by eye-witnesses of 
this memorable service, which shall be now given in full. 

First let the preacher himself speak. In Journal, Tuesday, August 2 1 , 
he says : 

' I set out with a few friends for Oxford. On Wednesday my brother 
met us from Bristol.' Friday, 24 (St. Bartholomew's Day) : ' I preached, I 
suppose the last time, at St. Mary's. Be it so. I am now clear of the blood 
of these men. I have fully delivered my own soul. The Beadle came to me 
afterwards and told me the Vice-Chancellor had sent him for my notes. I 
sent them without delay, not without admiring the wise providence of God. 
Perhaps few men of note would have given a sermon of mine the reading if 
I had put it into their hands ; but by this means it came to be read, prob- 
ably more than once, by every man of eminence in the University. I left 
Oxford about noon, preached at Wycombe [twenty-five miles south-east of 
Oxford] in the evening ; and on Saturday, the 25th, returned to London.' 

In A Short History of the Methodists (1781) he adds to the record 
from the Journal : 


88 Sermon IV 

' And I am well pleased that it should be the very day on which, in the 
last century, near two thousand burning and shining lights were put out at 
one stroke [the reference is to the ejectment from their livings on August 24, 
1662, of 2,000 clergymen, of whom Wesley's grandfather, John Westley, 
was one, because they refused to take the oath prescribed in the Act of 
Uniformity]. Yet what a wide difference is there between their case and 
mine I They were turned out of house and home, and all that they had ; 
whereas I am only hindered from preaching, without any other loss ; and 
that in a kind of honourable manner ; it being determined that, when my 
next turn to preach came, they would pay another person to preach for me. 
And so they did twice or thrice, even to the time that I resigned my fellow- 
ship ' [which he did in 1751]. 

Charles Wesley, in his Journal, August 23, says : 

' I went to Christ Church prayers with several of the brethren, who thought 
it strange to see men in surplices talking, laughing, and pointing, as in a 
play-house, the whole time of service. I got two or three hours 1 conference 
with my brother ; and found the spirit which had drawn us formerly in this 
place. I preached to a multitude of the brethren, gownsmen, and gentry 
from the races [it was the Oxford race-week] who filled our inn and yard. 
The strangers that intermeddled not with our joy seemed struck and aston- 
ished with it, whilst we admonished one another in psalms and hymns, &c. 

that all the world had a taste for our diversion 1 I Friday, August 24. — 

1 joined my brother in stirring up the Society. They did run well, till the 
Moravians turned them out of the way of God's ordinances. At ten I walked 
with my brother and Mr. Piers and Meriton [two clergymen who had just 
taken part in Wesley's first Conference in London] to St. Mary's, where 
my brother bore his testimony before a crowded audience, much increased 
by the racers. Never have I seen a more attentive congregation. They did 
not let a word slip them. Some of the Heads stood up the whole time, 
and fixed their eyes on him. If they can endure sound doctrine like his, he 
will surely leave a blessing behind him. The Vice-Chancellor sent after 
him, and desired his notes ; which he sealed up and sent immediately. We 
walked back in form, the little band of us four, for of the rest durst none 
join himself to us. I was a little diverted at the coyness of an old friend, 
Mr. Wells, who sat just before me, but took great cafe to turn his back upon 

""me all the time, which did not hinder my seeing through him. ATnoon my" 
" brother set out for London, and I for Bristol.' 

In the undergraduates' gallery was a student of Wadham, called 
Benjamin Kennicott, who through financial difficulties had come 
somewhat late to the University and was now twenty-five years of 
age. He afterwards became one of the most eminent of English 
Hebrew and Oriental scholars; was Fellow of Exeter, Keeper of the 
Radcliffe Library, and Canon of Christ Church. His Vetus Testamentum 
Hebraicum cum variis lectionibus (1776-80) embodied the results of 
the collation of 615 MSS. and 52 printed editions of the Hebrew Bible, 
and gave a great impetus to the study of the text of the Old Testa- 
ment. He wrote a full description of this service in a letter which 

Scriptural Christianity 89 

was published in the Methodist Magazine, January 1866, and from 
which I here copy : 

' On Friday last, being St. Bartholomew's Day, the famous Methodist, 
Mr. John Wesley, Fellow of Lincoln College, preached before the University ; 

which being a matter of great curiosity at present, and may possibly be 
greater in its consequences, I shall be particular in the account of it. All 

that are Masters of Arts, and on the foundation of any College, are set down 
in a roll, as they take their degree, and in that order preach before the Uni- 
versity, or pay three guineas for a preacher in their stead, and as no clergy- 
man can avoid his turn, so the University can refuse none ; otherwise Mr. 
Wesley would not have preached. He came to Oxford some time before 
[three days only], and preached frequently every day in courts, public- 
houses, and elsewhere. On Friday morning, having held forth twice in 
private, at five and at eight [I fear most of us degenerate moderns, with 
such a service before us, would have stayed in bed to breakfast], he came 
to St. Mary's at ten o'clock. There were present the Vice-Chancellor, the 
proctors, most of the heads of houses, a vast number of gownsmen, and a 
multitude of private people, with many of his followers, both brethren and 
sisters, who, with general [this cannot be right ; I conjecture it is ' funeral'] 
faces and plain attire, came from around to attend their master and teacher. 
When he mounted the pulpit, I fixed my eyes on him and his behaviour. 
He is neither tall nor fat ; for the latter would ill become a Methodist. His 
black hair quite smooth, and parted very exactly ' [yes, Mr. Kennicott ; 
this man had a way of doing everything " very exactly '], added to a peculiar 
composure in his countenance, ^showed him" to be an uncommon mao. . His 

"^pf^er "was~sOft, short, and conformable to the rules of the University. 
[This rather suggests that he used a brief extempore prayer after the formal 
bidding prayer.] His text, Acts iv. 31 : " And they were all filled with the 
Holy Ghost." And now he began to exalt his voice. He spoke the text 
very slowly, and with an agreeable emphasis. His introduction was to 
prove that the word all in the text was meant, not only of the apostles and 
those who received the extraordinary, but of others who received the ordinary 
influences (only) of the Holy Spirit ; and that of such there were many in 
the infancy of the gospel, persons who had no business to perform besides 
the reformation of their own lives, and therefore wanted the ordinary divine 
influences only, to refresh them in their conversion and complete their Chris- 
tianity. And this he chose to do, because, if the Holy Ghost was necessary 
for men as private persons at first, it must be so in all ages. His division 
of the text was, first, to show the influence of Christianity in its infancy on 
individuals ; secondly, in its progress from one period to another ; thirdly, 
in its final completion in the universal conversion of the world to the Christian 
faith. Under these three heads he expressed himself like a very good scholar, 
but a rigid zealot ; and then he came to what he called his plain, practical 
conclusion. Here was what he had been preparing for all along ; and he 
fired his address with so much zeal and unbounded satire as quite spoiled 
what otherwise might have been turned to great advantage ; for as I liked 
some, so I disliked other parts of his discourse extremely. Having, under 
his third head, displayed the happiness of the world under it — complete 
final reformation — " Now," says he, " where is this Christianity to be found ? 

90 Sermon IV 

Is this a Christian nation ? Is this a Christian city ? " — asserting the co 

trary to both. I liked some of his freedom ; such as calling the generalil 

of young gownsmen "„a gener ation of Iriflers," and many other just inve 

tives. But, considering how many shining lights are here that are the gloi 

of the Christian cause, his sacred censure was much too flaming and stron 

and his charity much too weak in not making large allowances. But so fj 

from allowances, that, after having summed up the measure of our iniquitie 

he concluded with a lif ted-up eye in this most solemn form : " It is time f< 

Thee, Lord, to lay to Thine hand " — words full of such presumption an 

seeming imprecation, that they gave an universal shock. This, and tt 

assertion that Oxford was not a Christian city, and this country not a Chi 

tian nation, were the most offensive parts of the sermon, except whenl 

accused the whole body (and confessed himself to be one of the number) ( 

the sin of perjury ; and for this reason, because, upon becoming membei 

of a College, every person takes an oath to observe the statutes of th 

University, and no one observes them in all things. But this gave me n 

uneasiness ; for in every oath the intention of the legislator is the only thin 

you swear to observe ; and the legislators here mean that you shall observ 

all their laws, or upon the violation of them submit to the punishment : 

required ; and this being explained in the statute-book given to ever 

member, does, I think, solve the whole difficulty. Had these things beei 

omitted, and his censures moderated, I think his discourse, as to style am 

delivery, would have been uncommonly pleasing to others as well as h 

myself. He is allowed to be a man of great parts, and that by the excellen 

Dean of Christ Church (Dr. Conybeare) ; for the day he preached, the deai 

generously said of him, " John Wesley will always be thought a man o 

sound sense, though an enthusiast." However, the Vice-Chancellor sent fo 

the sermon, and I hear the heads of colleges intend to show their resentment. 

Another youth was sitting in the body of the church amongst th« 
Dons ; for though only twenty years of age, he had a year before this 
been elected a Fellow of All Souls. His name was William Black- 
stone, destined to fame as the author of the Commentaries on the Lawi 
of England and a Judge of the realm. In a letter dated August 28, 
1744, and reproduced in facsimile in Hurst's History of Methodism, 
vol. ii. p. 602, he says : 

' We were last Friday entertained at St. Mary's by a curious sermon from 
Wesley the Methodist. Among other equally modest particulars he in- 
formed us, 1st That there was not one Christian among all the Heads ol 
Houses ; 2dly, that pride, gluttony, avarice, luxury, sensuality, and 
drunkenness were the general characteristicks of all Fellows of Colleges, who 
were useless to a proverbial uselessness. Lastly, that the younger part of 
the University were a generation of triflers, all of them perjured, and not one 
of them of any religion at all. His notes were demanded by the Vice- 
Chancellor, but on mature deliberation it has been thought proper to punish 
him by a mortifying neglect.' 

It is pleasant to find Wesley, quoting from his quondam critic, thirty 

Scriptural Christianity 91 

years afterwards, in his Thoughts upon Slavery, and describing him 
as ' that great ornament of his profession, Judge Blackstone.' 

The sermon was published in October by Strahan, with a short 
preface, omitted in the collected editions : ' It was not my design, 
when I wrote, ever to print the latter part of the following sermon. 
But the false and scurrilous accounts of it which have been published, 
almost in every corner of the nation, constrain me to publish the 
whole, just as it was preached ; that men of reason may judge for 
themselves.' Ezekiel xxxiii. 4 was prefixed to the sermon, ' Whosoever 
heareth the sound of the trumpet, and taketh not warning,' &c. ; but 
was omitted in the 1771 edition. Many separate editions of the sermon 
were issued ; there are eleven in the Wesleyan Conference Office 

I do not know where to find in religious literature anything to rival 
the portrayal in the first three divisions of this sermon of Christian 
experience, Christian activity, and a Christian world. There is hardly 
a sentence which is not directly derived from the Scriptures ; but the 
arrangement is so skilful that the impression is not of a pasticcio of 
texts, but of a full flood of impassioned eloquence. It is an example 
of the finest oratory, controlled by a strong logical sense, absolutely 
free from artificial ornaments, sincere as the light, but glowing with 
divine fire and fervour. And if the application is outspoken and severe, 
it never degenerates into vulgar abuse ; there is no feeling as we read 
that Wesley is exploiting the sins of the University for the sake of an 
advertisement of himself ; he must be faithful, but there is a strain of 
tenderness that is unmistakable ; and it must not be forgotten that 
he did not mean to publish this part of his sermon. ' I love the 
very sight of Oxford,' he says, in Plain Account of Kingswood School 
(178 1) ; 'I love the manner of life ; I love and esteem many of its 

But his love did not blind him to its faults. In this same 
pamphlet, whilst he admits the learning of the professors, he points 
out that all that they do is to ' read now and then an ingenious lecture, 
perhaps three or four times a year. They read it in the public schools ; 
but who hears ? Often vel duo vel nemo.'' Some of the tutors ' are 
men of eminent learning ' and are persons ' of piety and diligence ' ; 
but there are many of another sort who are both ignorant and careless 
of the welfare of their students. The examinations and exercises are 
' an idle, useless interruption of useful studies.' They are ' horribly, 
shockingly superficial,' ' an execrable insult upon common sense.' 
The undergraduates for the most part ' no more concern themselves 
with learning than with religion ' ; they are ' loungers and triflers.' 
The posthumously published Sermon CXXXIV, which was not actually 
preached, contains an even severer indictment. The evidence from 
the literature of the eighteenth century abundantly justifies Wesley's 

g2 Sermon IV 

criticisms. Things were at their worst just at this time (1744) • 
and towards the end of the century they had begun to improve * 
possibly in part through the influence of his faithful dealing. The 
best commentary on this part of the sermon will be found in 
Godley's Oxford in the Eighteenth Century (1908) ; especially chapters 
iii — vi. 

The Vice-Chancellor who sent for the notes of the sermon was William 
Hodges, Provost of Oriel, and ' a good scholar.' His objection to the 
sermon was probably not based on doctrinal grounds, but on the 
attack made in the presence of the undergraduates on the authorities 
of the University. 

History repeats itself. Morley, Life of Gladstone, i. 58, says: ' Glad- 
stone always remembered among the wonderful sights of his life, St. 
Mary's crammed in all parts by all orders when Mr. Bulteel, an out- 
lying Calvinist, preached an accusatory sermon (some of it all too 
true) against the University.' Bulteel, like Wesley, was an open-air 
preacher ; and lost his living on that account. 

And they were all filled with the Holy Ghost. — Acts iv. 31. 

i. The same expression occurs in the second chapter, where 
we read, ' When the day of Pentecost was fully come, they 
were all ' (the Apostles, with the women, and the mother of 
Jesus, and His brethren) ' with one accord in one place. And 
suddenly there came a sound from heaven as of a rushing 
mighty wind. And there appeared unto them cloven tongues 
like as of fire, and it sat upon each of them. And they were 
all filled with the Holy Ghost ' one immediate effect whereof 
was, they ' began to speak with other tongues ' , insomuch that 
both the Parthians, Medes, Elamites, and the other strangers 
who ' came together, when this was noised abroad, heard them 
speak, in their several tongues, the wonderful works of God ' 
(Acts ii. 1-6). 

2. In this chapter we read, that when the Apostles and 
brethren had been praying, and praising God, ' the place was 
shaken where they were assembled together, and they were all 
filled with the Holy Ghost.' Not that we find any visible 
appearance here, such as had been in the former instance : nor 
are we informed that the extraordinary gifts of the Holy Ghost 
were then given to all or any of them ; such as the gifts of 
' healing, of working ' other ' miracles, of prophecy, of dis- 

Scriptural Christianity 


cerning spirits, the speaking with divers kinds of tongues, and 
the interpretation of tongues ' (i Cor. xii. 9, 10). 

3. Whether these gifts of the Holy Ghost were designed to 
remain in the Church throughout all ages, and whether or no 
they will be restored at the nearer approach of the ' restitution 
of all things,' are questions which it is not needful to decide. 
But it is needful to observe this, that, even in the infancy of the 
Church, God divided them with a sparing hand. Were all even 
then prophets ? Were all workers of miracles ? Had all the 
gifts of healing ? Did all speak with tongues ? No, in no wise* 
Perhaps not one in a thousand. Probably none but the teachers 
in the Church, and only some of them (1 Cor. xii. 28-30). It 
was, therefore, for a more excellent purpose than this, that 
' they were all filled with the Holy Ghost.' 

4. It was, to give them (what none can deny to be essential 
to all Christians in all ages) the mind which was in Christ, those 
holy fruits of the Spirit, wHich" whosoever hath not, is none of 
His ; to fill them with ' love, joy, peace, long-suffering, gentle- 
ness, goodness ' (Gal. v. 22-24) » to endue them with faith 
(perhaps it might be rendered fidelity), with meekness and 
temperance ; to enable them to crucify the flesh, with its 

Par. 3. It is not possible to draw appear that these extraordinary gifts 

a hard-and-fast line between the so- 
called extraordinary and the ordinary 
gifts of the Spirit. The first are 
occasional and special ; the second 
are common to all believers. But it 
is not true that the former ceased 
to be bestowed after the first three 
centuries. No student of foreign 
missions will deny that they are still 
imparted where the necessity arises. 
And the more important ones — the 
word of wisdom, the word of know- 
ledge, faith, prophecy (i.e. the gift 
of inspired preaching, not necessarily 
involving the foretelling of the 
future), are as common now as in the 
primitive Church. Wesley speaks 
more fully on the subject in Ser- 
mon LXXXIX, The More Excel- 
lent Way, par. 2 : 'It does not 

of the Holy Ghost were common in 
the Church for more than two or 
three centuries. The cause of this 

was not because there was no occa- 
sion for them because all the world 
was become Christian. The real 
cause was ' ' the love of many, ' ' almost 
of all Christians, so-called, was 
" waxed cold." This was the real 
cause why the extraordinary gifts 
of the Holy Ghost were no longer 
to be found in the Christian Church ; 
because the Christians were turned 
heathens again, and had only a dead 
form left.' 

4. ' Fidelity.' Here, as often, Wes- 
ley anticipates the rendering of the 
Revisers, who have here ' faithful- 
ness ' in place of the A.V. ' faith.' 

94 Sermon IV 

affections and lusts, its passions and desires ; and in conse- 
quence of that inward change, to fulfil all outward righteous- 
ness , to ' walk as Christ also walked,' in ' the work of faith, 
in the patience of hope, the labour of love ' (i Thess. i. 3). 

5. Without busying ourselves, then, in curious, needless 
inquiries, touching those extraordinary gifts of the Spirit, let 
us take a nearer view of these His ordinary fruits, which we are 
assured will remain throughout all ages ; — of that great work 
of God among the children of men, which we are used to express 
by one word, ' Christianity ' , not as it implies a set of opinions, 
a system of doctrines, but asTF refers to men's he aHTaliorHves. 
And this Christianity it may be useful to consider under three 
distinct views : 


I design to close these considerations with a plain, practical 

1. 1. And, first, let us consider Christianity in its rise, as 
beginning to exist in individuals. 

Suppose, then, one of those who heard the Apostle Peter 
preaching repentance and remission of sins, was pricked to the 
heart, was convinced of sin, repented, and then believed in 
Jesus. By this faith of the operation of God, which was the 
very substance, or subsistence, of things hoped for (Heb. xi. 
1), the demonstrative evidence of invisible things, he instantly 
received the Spirit of adoption, whereby he now cried, ' Abba, 
Father ' (Rom. viii. 15). Now first it was that he could call 
Jesus Lord, by the Holy Ghost (1 Cor. xii. 3), the Spirit itself 
bearing witness with his spirit, that he was a child of God 
(Rom. viii. 16). Now it was that he could truly say, ' I live 
not, but Christ liveth in me , and the life which I now live in 
the flesh, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me, and 
gave Himself for me ' (Gal. ii. 20). 

2. This, then, was the very essence of his faith, a divine 
e\eyxos (evidence or conviction) of the love of God the Father, 
through the Son of His love, to him a sinner, now accepted in 

Scriptural Christianity 95 

the Beloved. And, ' being justified by faith, he had peace 
with God' (Rom. v. 1), yea, 'the peace of God ruling in his 
heart ' , a peace which, passing all understanding [irdvTa vovv, 
all barely rational conception), kept his heart and mind from 
all doubt and fear, through the knowledge of Him in whom he 
had believed. He could not, therefore, ' be afraid of any evil 
tidings ' , for his ' heart stood fast, believing in the Lord.' He 
feared not what man could do unto him, knowing the very 
hairs of his head were all numbered. He feared not all the 
powers of darkness, whom God was daily bruising under his 
feet. Least of all was he afraid to die , nay, he desired to 
' depart, and to be with Christ ' (Phil. i. 23) , who, ' through 
death, had destroyed him that had the power of death, even the 
devil , and delivered them who, through fear of death, were all 
their life-time,' till then, ' subject to bondage ' (Heb. ii. 15). 

3. His soul, therefore, magnified the Lord, and his spirit 
rejoiced in God his Saviour. ' He rejoiced in Him with joy 
unspeakable/ who had reconciled him to God, even the Father ; 
' in whom he had redemption through His blood, the forgiveness 
of sins.' He rejoiced in that witness of God's Spirit with his 
spirit, that he was a child of God , and more abundantly, ' in 
hope of the glory of God ' , in hope of the glorious image of 
God, and full renewal of his soul in righteousness and true 
holiness ; and in hope of that crown of glory, that ' inheritance, 
incorruptible, undefiled, and that fadeth not away.' 

4. ' The love of God was also shed abroad in his heart by 
the Holy Ghost which was given unto him ' (Rom. v. 5). 
' Because he was a son, God had sent forth the Spirit of His 
Son into his heart, crying, Abba, Father ! ' (Gal. iv. 6). And 
that filial love of God was continually increased by the witness 
he had in himself (1 John v. 10) of God's pardoning love to 
him , by ' beholding what manner of love it was which the 
Father had bestowed upon him, that he should be called a child 
of God ' (1 John iii. 1). So that God was the desire of his eyes, 
and the joy of his heart ; his portion in time and in eternity. 

I. 2. In spite of Lightfoot, I be- of all merely intellectual processes ; 
lieve Wesley's interpretation is right. it cannot be attained by logical in- 
The peace of God is beyond the reach ference, but is the gift of the Spirit. 

96 Sermon IV 

5. He that thus loved God could not but love his brother 
also ; and ' not in word only, but in deed and in truth/ ' II 
God,' said he, ' so loved us, we ought also to love one another ' 
(1 John iv. n) , yea, every soul of man, as ' the mercy of God 
is over all His works ' (Ps. cxlv. 9). Agreeably hereto, the affec- 
tion of this lover of God embraced all mankind for His sake , 
not excepting those whom he had never seen in the flesh, or those 
of whom he knew nothing more than that they were ' the off- 
spring of God,' for whose souls His Son had died ; not excepting 
the ' evil ' and ' unthankful/ and least of all his enemies, 
those who hated, or persecuted, or despitefully used him for 
his Master's sake. These had a peculiar place, both in his heart 
and in his prayers. He loved them ' even as Christ loved us.' 

6. And ' love is not puffed up ' (1 Cor. xiii. 4). It abases to 
the dust every soul wherein it dwells. Accordingly, he was 
lowly of heart, little, mean, and vile in his own eyes. He 
neither sought nor received the praise of men, but that which 
cometh of God only. He was meek and long-suffering, gentle 
to all, and easy to be entreated. Faithfulness and truth nevei 
forsook him ; they were ' bound about his neck, and wrote on 
the table of his heart.' By the same spirit he was enabled to 
be temperate in all things, refraining his soul even as a weaned 
child. He was ' crucified to the world, and the world crucified 
to him ' , superior to ' the desire of the flesh, the desire of the 
eye, and the pride of life.' By the same almighty love was he 
saved, both from passion and pride ; from lust and vanity , 
from ambition and covetousness , and from every temper 
which was not in Christ. 

7. It may easily be believed, he who had this love in his 
heart would work no evil to his neighbour. It was impii§i|j 
for him, knowingly and designedly, to do harm to any maBi 
He was at the greatest distance from cruelty and wrong, from 
any unjust or unkind action. With the same care did he ' set 
a watch before his mouth, and keep the door of his lips,' lest 
he should offend in tongue, either against justice, or against 
mercy or truth. He put away all lying, falsehood, and fraud , 
neither was guile found in his mouth. He spake evil of nc 
man , nor did an unkind word ever come out of his lips. 

Scriptural Christianity 97 

8. And as he was deeply sensible of the truth of that word, 
' Without Me ye can do nothing,' and, consequently, of the 
need he had to be watered of God every moment ; so he con- 
tinued daily in all the ordinances of God, the stated channels 
of His grace to man ' in the Apostles' doctrine,' or teaching, 
receiving that food of the soul with all readiness of heart , in 
' the breaking of bread,' which he found to be the communion 
of the body of Christ ; and ' in the prayers ' and praises offered 
up by the great congregation. And thus, he daily ' grew in 
grace,' increasing in strength, in the knowledge and love of God. 

9. But it did not satisfy him, barely to abstain from doing 
evil. His soul was athirst to do good. The language of his 
heart continually was, ' " My Father worketh hitherto, and I 
work." My Lord went about doing good , and shall not I 
tread in His steps ? ' As he had opportunity, therefore, if he 
could do no good of a higher kind, he fed the hungry, clothed 
the naked, helped the fatherless or stranger, visited and as- 
sisted them that were sick or in prison. He gave all his goods 
to feed the poor. He rejoiced to labour or to suffer for them , 
and whereinsoever he might profit another, there especially 
to ' deny himself.' He counted nothing too dear to part with 
for them, as well remembering the word of his Lord, ' Inasmuch 
as ye have done it unto one of the least of these My brethren, 
ye have done it unto Me ' (Matt, xxv- 40). 

10. Such was Christianity in its rise. Such was a Christian 
in ancient days. Such was every one of those who, when they 
heard the threatenings of the chief priests and elders, ' lifted 
up their voice to God with one accord, and were all filled with 

8. It is curious that neither here, narrow and quite inadequate way 
nor in par. i. 10 below, nor in Ser- of regarding it. Some modern com- 
mon XII, ii. 1, on The Means of mentators (e.g. Hort and Zockler) 
Grace, is ' the fellowship,' in which adopt this view ; but the majority 
these first converts are said to have take the word to mean ' co-operation 
continued, as much as mentioned ; in the widest sense, including fellow- 
and yet John Wesley was the founder ship in sympathy, suffering, and toil, ' 
of the class-meeting and the band. as well as mutual material help. 
The explanation is found in the 10. It is to be observed in regard 
Notes on the New Testament, where he to the communism of the Church at 
interprets the fellowship to mean Jerusalem, (i) that it was not com- 
' having all things common ' ; a pulsory. From Acts v. 4 it is clear 


g8 Sermon IV 

the Holy Ghost. The multitude of them that believed were 
of one heart and of one soul ' : so did the love of Him in 
whom they had believed constrain them to love one another. 
' Neither said any of them that aught of the things which he 
possessed was his own , but they had all things common ' so 
fully were they crucified to the world, and the world crucified 
to them. ' And they continued steadfastly with one accord 
in the Apostles' doctrine, and in the breaking of bread, and 
in prayer ' (Acts ii. 42). ' And great grace was upon them 
all : neither was there any among them that lacked : for as 
many as were possessors of lands or houses sold them, and 
brought the prices of the things that were sold, and laid them 
down at the Apostles' feet and distribution was made unto 
every man according as he had need ' (Acts iv. 31-35). 

II. 1. Let us take a view, in the second place, of this Christi- 
anity, as spreading from one to another, and so gradually 
making its way into the world for such was the will of God 
concerning it, who did not ' light a candle to put it under a 
bushel, but that it might give light to all that were in the 
house.' And this our Lord had declared to His first disciples, 
' Ye are the salt of the earth,' ' the light of the world ' ; at the 
same time that He gave that general command, ' Let your 
light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, 
and glorify your Father which is in heaven ' (Matt. v. 13-16). 

2. And, indeed, supposing a few of these lovers of mankind 
to see ' the whole world lying in wickedness,' can we believe 
they would be unconcerned at the sight, at the misery of those 
for whom their Lord died ? Would not their bowels yearn 
over them, and their hearts melt away for very trouble? 
Could they then stand idle all the day long, even were there 
no command from Him whom they loved ? Rather, would 
they not labour, by all possible means, to pluck some of these 

that both before and after the sale take, however praiseworthy its 

of his possession, it was quite open motive ; for in a very few years it 

to Ananias to do as he thought best became necessary for St. Paul to seek 

with it ; (2) that the realization of contributions all over the world for 

all their capital for immediate dis- the poor saints at Jerusalem, 
tribution was an economical mis- 

Scriptural Christianity 99 

brands out of the burning ? Undoubtedly they would : they 
would spare no pains to bring back whomsoever they could of 
those poor ' sheep that had gone astray, to the great Shepherd 
and Bishop of their souls * (1 Pet. ii. 25). 

3. So the Christians of old did. They laboured, having 
opportunity, ' to do good unto all men ' (Gal. vi. 10), warning 
them to flee from the wrath to come ; now, now to escape the 
damnation of hell. They declared, ' The times of ignorance 
God winked at , but now He calleth all men everywhere to 
repent ' (Acts xvii. 30). They cried aloud, Turn ye, turn ye, 
from your evil ways , ' so iniquity shall not be your ruin ' 
(Ezek. xviii. 30). They ' reasoned ' with them of ' temperance, 
and righteousness,' or justice — of the virtues opposite to their 
reigning sins , ' and of judgement to come ' — of the wrath of 
God which would surely be executed on evil-doers in that day 
when He should judge the world (Acts xxiv. 25). 

4. They endeavoured herein to speak to every man severally 
as he had need. To the careless, to those who lay ^unconcerned 
in darkness and in the shadow of death, they thundered, 
' Awake, thou that sleepest , arise from the dead, and Christ 
shall give thee light.' But to those who were already awakened 
out of sleep, and groaning under a sense of the wrath of God, 
their language was, ' We have an Advocate with the Father ; 
He is the propitiation for our sins.' Meantime, those who had 
believed, they provoked to love and to good works , to patient 
continuance in well-doing ■; and to abound more and more in 
that holiness without which no man can see the Lord (Heb. 
xii. 14). 

5. And their labour was not in vain in the Lord. His wofd 
ran and was glorified. It grew mightily and prevailed. But 
so much the more did offences prevail also. The world in 
general were offended, ' because they testified of it, that the 
works thereof were evil ' (John vii. 7). The men of pleasure 

II. 3. ' Winked at.' In the Notes No doubt Wesley had in his mind 

on the New Testament Wesley adopts that this was the text from which 

the much better rendering ' over- Charles Wesley had preached his 

looked ' ; which is that of the R.V. great sermon in St. Mary's two years 

4. ' Awake, thou that sleepest.' before. 

ioo Sermon IV 

were offended, not only because these men were made, as it 

were, to reprove their thoughts. ' He professeth,' said they, 

1 to have the knowledge of God , he calleth himself the child 

of the Lord ; his life is not like other men's , his ways are of 

another fashion , he abstaineth from our ways, as from filthi- 

ness , he maketh his boast, that God is his Father ' (Wis. ii. 

13-16) , but much more, because so many of their companions 

were taken away, and would no more ' run with them to the 

same excess of riot ' (1 Pet. iv. 4). The men of reputation 

were offended, because, as the gospel spread, they declined in 

the esteem of the people ; and because many no longer dared 

to give them flattering titles, or to pay man the homage due to 

God only. The men of trade called one another together, and 

said, ' Sirs, ye know that by this craft we have our wealth : 

but ye see and hear that these men have persuaded and turned 

away much people , so that this our craft is in danger to be set 

at nought ' (Acts xix. 25, &c). . Above al_L_t. he men of religion, 

s o called, the men of outs ide religion, ' the saints of the 

world/ were offended, and ready at every~opportunity~to cry" 

IJut, ' Men of Israel, help F We have found these men pestilent 

fellows, movers of sedition Throughout the world ' (Acts xxiv. 

5). ' These are the men that teach all men everywhere against 

the people, and against [the law] ' (Acts xxi. 28). 

6. Thus it was that the heavens grew black with clouds, 
and the storm gathered amain. For the more Christianity 
spread, the more hurt was done, in the account of those who 
received it not , and the number increased of those who were 
more and more enraged at these men who thus ' turned the 
world upside down ' (Acts xvii. 6) ; insomuch that more and 
more cried out, * Away with such fellows from the earth ; 
it is not fit that they should live ' ; yea, and sincerely believed, 
that whosoever should kill them would do God service. 

7. Meanwhile they did not fail to ' cast out their name as 
evil ' (Luke vi. 22) , so that ' this sect was everywhere spoken 
against ' (Acts xxviii. 22). Men said all manner of evil of them, 

5. How many modern Methodists we are not familiar with the Book of 
ever read the Apocrypha ? At all Wisdom and the First Book of 
events, it is to our great loss that Maccabees. 

Scriptural Christianity 


even as had been done of the prophets that were before them 
(Matt. v. 12). And whatsoever any would affirm, others would 
believe ; so that offences grew as the stars of heaven for multi- 
tude. And hence arose, at the time foreordained of the Father, 
persecution in all its forms. Some, for a season, suffered only 
shame and reproach ; some, ' the spoiling of their goods ' , 
* some had trial of mocking and scourging , some of bonds and 
imprisonment ' ; and others ' resisted unto blood ' (Heb. x. 34 ; 
xi. 36, &c). 

8. Now it was that the pillars of hell were shaken, and the 
kingdom of God spread more and more. Sinners were every- 
where ' turned from darkness to light, and from the power of 
Satan unto God.' He gave His children ' such a mouth, and 
such wisdom, as all their adversaries could not resist ' ; and 
their lives were of equal force with their words. But above 
all, their sufferings spake to all the world. They ' approved 
themselves the servants of God, in afflictions, in necessities, in 
distresses, in stripes, in imprisonments, in tumults, in labours , 
in perils in the sea, in perils in the wilderness, in weariness and 
painfulness, in hunger and in thirst, in cold and nakedness ' 
(2 Cor. vi. 4, &c). And when, having fought the good fight, 
they were led as sheep to the slaughter, and offered up on the 
sacrifice and service of their faith, then the blood of each found 
a voice, and the Heathen owned, ' He being dead, yet speaketh.' 

9. Thus did Christianity spread itself in the earth. But 
how soon did the tares appear with the wheat, and the mystery 
of iniquity work, as well as the mystery of godliness ! How 
soon did Satan find a seat, even in the temple of God, ' till the 
woman fled into the wilderness,' and ' the faithful were again 
minished from the children of men ' ! Here we tread a beaten 

9. The reference is to 2 Thess. ii. 4, 
which Wesley in the Notes on the 
New Testament interprets as a pro- 
phecy of the pretensions of the Pope 
of Rome. But here he seems to 
accept the more probable interpre- 
tation, which sees in it a reference 
to the claims to divine power and 
worship made by the Roman Em- 
perors. The flight of the woman 

into the wilderness (Rev. xii. 6) is 
generally interpreted to mean the 
flight of the Christian Church of 
Jerusalem into Peraea, when the 
Romans besieged the city in a.d. 70 ; 
but in the Notes Wesley explains it 
as prefiguring the preservation of 
the Protestant Church in Bohemia 
and other trans-Danubian countries 
of Europe during the Middle^Ages. 

102 Sermon IV 

path the still increasing corruptions of the succeeding genera- 
tions have been largely described, from time to time, by those 
witnesses God raised up, to show that He had ' built His Church 
upon a rock, and the gates of hell should not ' wholly ' prevail 
against her ' (Matt. xvi. 18). 

III. i. But shall we not see greater things than these? 
Yea, greater than have been yet from the beginning of the 
world. Can Satan cause the truth of God to fail, or His prom- 
ises to be of none effect ? If not, the time will come when 
Christianity will prevail over all, and cover the earth. Let us 
stand a little, and survey (the third thing which was proposed) 
this strange sight, a Christian world. Of this the prophets of 
old inquired and searched diligently (i Pet. i. 10, n, &c.) of 
this the Spirit which was in them testified ' It shall come 
to pass in the last days, that the mountain of the Lord's house 
shall be established in the top of the mountains, and shall be 
exalted above the hills ; and all nations shall flow unto it. . . 
And they shall beat their swords into ploughshares, and their 
spears into pruning-hooks : nation shall not lift up sword 
against nation, neither shall they learn war any more ' (Isa. ii. 
2, 4). ' In that day there shall be a Root of Jesse, which shall 
stand for an Ensign of the people , to it shall the Gentiles seek : 
and His rest shall be glorious. And it shall come to pass in 
that day, that the Lord shall set His hand again to recover the 
remnant of His people , and He shall set up an Ensign for the 
nations, and shall assemble the outcasts of Israel, and gather 
together the dispersed of Judah from the four corners of the 
earth ' (Isa. xi. 10-12). ' The wolf shall then dwell with the 
lamb, and the leopard shall lie down with the kid , and the calf 
and the young lion and the fatling together ; and a little child 
shall lead them. They shall not hurt nor destroy, saith the 
Lord, in all My holy mountain for the earth shall be full of 
the knowledge of the Lord, as the waters cover the sea ' (Isa. 
xi. 6-9). 

2. To the same effect are the words of the great Apostle, 
which it is evident have never yet been fulfilled. ' Hath God 
cast away His people ? God|forbid. But through their fall 

Scriptural Christianity 103 

salvation is come to the Gentiles. And if the diminishing of 
them be the riches of the Gentiles, how much more their full- 
ness ? For I would not, brethren, that ye should be ignorant 
of this mystery ; that blindness in part is happened to Israel, 
until the fullness of the Gentiles be come in : and so all Israel 
shall be saved ' (Rom. xi. 1, 11, 12, 25, 26). 

3. Suppose now the fullness of time to be come, and the 
prophecies to be accomplished! What a prospect is this ! All 
is peace, ' quietness, and assurance for ever,' Here is no din 
of arms, no ' confused noise,' no ' garments rolled in blood.' 
' Destructions are come to a perpetual end ' : wars are ceased 
from the earth. Neither are there any intestine jars remaining , 
no brother rising up against brother ; no country or city 
divided against itself, and tearing out its own bowels. Civil 
discord is at an end for evermore, and none is left either 
to destroy or hurt his neighbour. Here is no oppression to 
' make ' even ' the wise man mad ' ; no extortion to ' grind the 
face of the poor ' ; no robbery or wrong ; no rapine or injustice ; 
for all are ' content with such things as they possess.' Thus 
' righteousness and peace have kissed each other ' (Ps. lxxxv. 
10) , they have ' taken root and filled the land ' , ' righteous- 
ness flourishing out of the earth ' ; and ' peace looking down 
from heaven.' 

4. And with righteousness or justice, mercy is also found. 
The earth is no longer full of cruel habitations. The Lord 
hath destroyed both the blood-thirsty and malicious, the 
envious and revengeful man. Were there any provocation, 
there is none that now knoweth to return evil for evil ; but 
indeed there is none that doeth evil, no, not one : for all are 
harmless as doves. And being filled with peace and joy in 
believing, and united in one body, by one Spirit, they all love 
as brethren, they are all of one heart and of one soul. ' Neither 
saith any of them, that aught of the things which he possesseth 
is his own.' There is none among them that lacketh ; for 
every man loveth his neighbour as himself. And all walk by 
one rule : ' Whatever ye would that men should do unto you, 
even so do unto them.' 

5. It follows, that no unkind word can ever be heard among 

104 Sermon IV 

them, no strife of tongues, no contention of any kind, no railing 
or evil-speaking, but every one ' opens his mouth with wisdom, 
and in his tongue there is the law of kindness.' Equally 
incapable are they of fraud or guile : their love is without 
dissimulation : their words are always the just expression of 
their thoughts, opening a window into their breast, that whoso- 
ever desires may look into their hearts, and see that only love 
and God are there. 

6. Thus, where the Lord Omnipotent taketh to Himself 
His mighty power and reigneth, doth He ' subdue all things 
to Himself,' cause every heart to overflow with love, and fill 
every mouth with praise. ' Happy are the people that are 
in such a case : yea, blessed are the people who have the Lord 
for their God ' (Ps. cxliv. 15). ' Arise, shine,' saith the Lord ; 
' for thy light is come, and the glory of the Lord is risen upon 
thee. Thou hast known that I the Lord am thy Saviour and 
thy Redeemer, the mighty God of Jacob. I have made thy 
officers peace, and thy exactors righteousness. Violence shall 
no more be heard in thy land, wasting nor destruction within 
thy borders , but thou shalt call thy walls Salvation and thy 
gates Praise. Thy people are all righteous , they shall inherit 
the land for ever, the branch of My planting, the work of My 
hands, that I may be glorified. The sun shall be no more thy 
light by day , neither for brightness shall the moon give light 
unto thee , but the Lord shall be unto thee an everlasting 
light, and thy God thy glory ' (Isa. lx. 1, 16-19, 2I )- 

IV Having thus briefly considered Christianity, as be- 
ginning, as going on, and as covering the earth, it remains 
only that I should close the whole with a plain, practical 

1. And, first, I would ask, Where does this Christianity 
now exist ? Where, I pray, do the Christians live ? Which 
is the country, the inhabitants whereof are all thus filled with 
the Holy Ghost ? — are all of one heart and of one soul ; cannot 
suffer one among them to lack anything, but continually give 
to every man as he hath need , who, one and all, have the 
love of God filling their hearts, and constraining them to love 

Scriptural Christianity 


their neighbour as themselves , who have all ' put on bowels 
of mercy, humbleness of mind, gentleness, long-suffering ' — 
who offend not in any kind, either by word or deed, against 
justice, mercy, or truth ; but in every point do unto all men, 
as they would these should do unto them ? With what pro- 
priety can we term any a Christian country, which does not 
answer this description ? Why then, let us confess we have 
never yet seen a Christian country upon earth. 

2. I beseech you, brethren, by the mercies of God, if ye 
do account me a madman or a fool, yet, as a fool bear with me. 
It is utterly needful that some one should use great plainness of 
speech towards you. It is more especially needful at this time ; 
for who knoweth but it is the last ? Who knoweth how soon 
the righteous Judge may say, ' I will no more be entreated for 
this people ' ? ' Though Noah, Daniel, and Job were in this 
land, they should but deliver their own souls.' And who will 
use this plainness, if I do not ? Therefore I, even I, will speak. 
And I adjure you, by the living God, that ye steel not your 
breasts against receiving a blessing at my hands. Do not say 
in your hearts, Non persuadebis, etiamsi persuaseris , or, in 
other words, Lord, Thou shalt not send by whom Thou wilt send ; 
let me rather perish in my blood, than be saved by this man ! 

3. Brethren, ' I am persuaded better things of you, though 
I thus speak.' Let me ask you then, in tender love, and in 
the spirit of meekness, Is this city a Christian city ? Is 
Christianity, sciiptural Christianity, found here ? Are we, 
considered as a community of men, so ' filled with the Holy 
Ghost,' as to enjoy in our hearts, and show forth in our lives, 

IV. 2. Wesley was well aware of 
the strong prejudice against him, 
especially in Oxford. His preaching 
in the open air, the extraordinary 
physical convulsions which had re- 
sulted from his preaching, and his 
doctrine of the witness of the Spirit 
as the common privilege of believers, 
were universally stigmatized as the 
marks of a dangerous fanaticism ; 
and his founding of the Methodist 
Societies, and his setting-up of 

preaching-houses in London and 
Bristol, seemed to show that he was 
intending to organize his followers 
into a new sect of Dissenters, in spite 
of all his protest to the contrary. 

' Thou shalt not persuade me, even 
though thou hast persuaded me.' 
This seems to be an Iambic Senarian ; 
I have not been able to find it in 
Plautus or Terence. It may be 
from one of Seneca's tragedies. 

io6 Sermon IV 

the genuine fruits of that Spirit ? Are all the Magistrates 
all Heads and Governors of Colleges and Halls, and their 
respective Societies (not to speak of the inhabitants of the 
town), ' of one heart and one soul ' ? Is ' the love of God shed 
abroad in our hearts ' ? Are our tempers the same that were in 
Him ? And are our lives agreeable thereto ? Are we ' holy as 
He who hath called us is holy in all manner of conversation ' ? 

4. I entreat you to observe, that here are no peculiar notions 
now under consideration , that the question moved is not 
concerning doubtful opinions of one kind or another, but con- 
cerning the undoubted, fundamental branches (if there be any 
such) of our common Christianity. And for the decision there- 
of, I appeal to your own consciences, guided by the Word of 
God. He therefore that is not condemned by his own heart, 
let him go free. 

5. In the fear, then, and in the presence of the great God, 
before whom both you and I shall shortly appear, I pray you 
that are in authority over us, whom I reverence for your office' 
sake, to consider (and not after the manner of dissemblers with 
God), are you ' filled with the Holy Ghost ' ? Are you lively 
portraitures of Him whom ye are appointed to represent 
among men ? ' I have said, Ye are Gods,' ye magistrates and 
rulers , ye are by office so nearly allied to the God of heaven ! 
In your several stations and degrees, ye are to show forth unto 
us ' the Lord our Governor.' Are all the thoughts of your 
hearts, all your tempers and desires, suitable to your high call- 
ing ? Are all your words like unto those which come out of 
the mouth of God ? Is there in all your actions dignity and 
love ? — a greatness which words cannot express, which can flow 
only from a heart ' full of God ' ; and yet consistent with the 
character of ' man that is a worm, and the son of man that is a 
worm ' ? 

6. Ye venerable men, who are more especially called to 
form the tender minds of youth, to dispel thence the shades of 
ignorance and error, and train them up to be wise unto salva- 
tion, are you ' filled with the Holy Ghost ' ? with all those 
'fruits of the Spirit,' which your important office so indis- 
pensably requires ? Is your heart whole with God ? full of 

Scriptural Christianity 107 

love and zeal to set up His kingdom on earth ? Do you 
continually remind those under your care, that the one rational 
end of all our studies, is to know, love, and serve ' the only 
true God, and Jesus Christ whom He hath sent ' ? Do you 
inculcate upon them day by day, that love alone never faileth 
(whereas, whether there be tongues, they shall fail, or philo- 
sophical knowledge, it shall vanish away) , and that without 
love, all learning is but splendid ignorance, pompous folly, 
vexation of spirit ? Has all you teach an actual tendency to 
the love of God, and of all mankind for His sake ? Have you 
an eye to this end in whatever you prescribe, touching the 
kind, the manner, and the measure of their studies , desiring 
and labouring that, wherever the lot of these young soldiers 
of Christ is cast, they may be so many burning and shining 
lights, adorning the gospel of Christ in all things ? And permit 
me to ask, Do you put forth all your strength in the vast work 
you have undertaken ? Do you labour herein with all your 
might ? exerting every faculty of your soul, using every talent 
which God hath lent you, and that to the uttermost of your 
power ? 

7. Let it not be said, that I speak here, as if all under your 
care were intended to be clergymen. Not so , I only speak 
as if they were all intended to be Christians. But what example 
is set them by us who enjoy the beneficence of our forefathers ? 
by Fellows, Students, Scholars , more especially those who 
are of some rank and eminence ? Do ye, brethren, abound 
in the fruits of the Spirit, in lowliness of mind, in self-denial 
and mortification, in seriousness and composure of spirit, in 
patience, meekness, sobriety, temperance ; and in unwearied, 
restless endeavours to do good in every kind unto all men, to 
relieve their outward wants, and to bring their souls to the 
true knowledge and love of God ? Is this the general character 
of Fellows of Colleges ? I fear it is not. Rather, have not 

7. Nicholas Amherst, of St. John's, luxury and idleness ; he enjoys him- 

writes in 1726 : ' When any person self and is dead to the world ; for a 

is chosen Fellow of a College, he im- senior Fellow of a College lives and 

mediately becomes a freeholder, and moulders away in a supine and 

is settled for life in ease and plenty. regular course of eating, drinking, 

He wastes the rest of his days in sleeping, and cheating the juniors.' 

io8 Sermon IV 

pride and haughtiness of spirit, impatience and peevishness, 
sloth and indolence, gluttony and sensuality, and even a 
proverbial uselessness, been objected to us, perhaps not always 
by our enemies, nor wholly without ground ? O that God 
would roll away this reproach from us, that the very memory 
of it might perish for ever ! 

8. Many of us are more immediately consecrated to God, 
called to minister in holy things. Are we then patterns to 
the rest, ' in word, in conversation, in charity, in spirit, in 
faith, in purity ' (i Tim. iv. 12) ? Is there written on our 
forehead and on our heart, ' Holiness to the Lord ' ? From 
what motives did we enter upon this office ? Was it indeed 
with a single eye ' to serve God, trusting that we were inwardly 
moved by the Holy Ghost to take upon us this ministration, 
for the promoting of His glory, and the edifying of His people ' ? 
And have we ' clearly determined, by God's grace, to give 
ourselves wholly to this office ' ? Do we forsake and set 
aside, as much as in us lies, all worldly cares and studies? 
Do we apply ourselves wholly to this one thing, and draw all 
our cares and studies this way ? Are we apt to teach ? Are 
we taught of God, that we may be able to teach others also ? 
Do we know God ? Do we know Jesus Christ ? Hath ' God 
revealed His Son in us ' ? And hath He ' made us able 
ministers of the new covenant ' ? Where then are the ' seals of 
our apostleship ' ? Who, that were dead in trespasses andi 
sins, have been quickened by our word ? Have we a burning 
zeal to save souls from death, so that for their sake we often 
forget even to eat our bread ? Do we speak plain, ' by mani- 
festation of the truth commending ourselves to every man s 
conscience in the sight of God ' (2 Cor. iv. 2) ? Are we dead 
to the world, and the things of the, world, ' laying up all our 
treasure in heaven ' ? Do we lord over God's heritage ? Or 
are we the least, the servants of all ? When we bear the 
reproach of Christ, does it sit heavy upon us ? Or do we 
rejoice therein ? When we are smitten on the one cheek, 

8. ' Trusting that we were in- services for the Ordering of Deacons 
wardly moved,' &c. This and the and of Priests, 
following quotations are from the 

Scriptural Christianity 109 

Lo we resent it ? Are we impatient of affronts ? Or do we 
urn the other also , not resisting the evil, but overcoming 
:vil with good ? Have we a bitter zeal, inciting us to strive 
iharply and passionately with them that are out of the way ? 
)r is our zeal the flame of love, so as to direct all our words ' 
vith sweetness, lowliness, and meekness of wisdom ? 

9. Once more : what shall we say concerning the youth 
)f this place ? Have you either the form or the power of 
Christian godliness ? Are you humble, teachable, advisable ; 
)r stubborn, self-willed, heady, and high-minded ? Are you 
)bedient to your superiors as to parents ? Or do you despise 
those to whom you owe the tenderest reverence ? Are you 
liligent in your easy business, pursuing your studies with all 
^our strength ? Do you redeem the time, crowding as much 
work into every day as it can contain ? Rather, are ye not 
:onscious to yourselves, that you waste away day after day, 
either in reading what has no tendency to Christianity, or in 
gaming, or in — you know not what ? Are you better managers 
Df your fortune than of your time ? Do you, out of principle, 
take care to owe no man anything ? Do you ' remember the 
Sabbath-day, to keep it holy ' , to spend it in the more im- 
mediate worship of God ? When you are in His house, do you 
consider that God is there ? Do you behave ' as seeing Him 
that is invisible ' ? Do you know how to ' possess your bodies 
in sanctification and honour ' ? Are not drunkenness and 
uncleanness found among you ? Yea, are there not of you 
who ' glory in their shame ' ? Do not many of you ' take the 
name of God in vain/ perhaps habitually, without either 
remorse or fear ? Yea, are there not a multitude of you that 
are forsworn ? I fear, a swiftly-increasing multitude. Be 
not surprised, brethren. Before God and this congregation, 
I own myself to have been of the number, solemnly swearing 
to observe all those customs, which I then knew nothing of ; 
and those statutes, which I did not so much as read over, 
either then, or for some years after. What is perjury, if this 

9. This wholesale accusation of Wesley is mainly thinking of thft 
perjury is amplified in Sermon chapter of the Statutes ' De Moribus 
CXXXIV, ii. 9. As this shows. Conformances.' Now, each of the 


Sermon IV 

is not ? But if it be, O what a weight of sin, yea, sin of no 
common dye, lieth upon us ! And doth not the Most High 
regard it ? 

10. May it not be one of the consequences of this, that so 
many of you are a generation of triflers ; triflers with God, 
with one another, and with your own souls ? For, how few of 
you spend, from one week to another, a single hour in private 
prayer ! How few have any thought of God in the general 
tenor of your conversation ! Who of you is in any degree 
acquainted with the work of His Spirit, His supernatural work 
in the souls of men ? Can you bear, unless now and then in 
a church, any talk of the Holy Ghost ? Would you not take 
it for granted, if one began such a conversation, that it was 
either hypocrisy or enthusiasm ? In the name of the Lord 
God Almighty, I ask, what religion are you of ? Even the 
talk of Christianity, ye cannot, will not bear. O my brethren, 
what a Christian city is this ! ' It is time for Thee, Lord, to 
lay to Thine hand ! ' 

ii. For, indeed, what probability, what possibility, rather 
(speaking after the manner of men), is there that Christianity, 
scriptural Christianity, should be again the religion of this 
place ? that all orders of men among us should speak and live 
as men ' filled with the Holy Ghost ' ? By whom should this 
Christianity be restored ? By those of you that are in 
authority ? Are you convinced then that this is scriptural 
Christianity ? Are you desirous it should be restored ? And 
do ye not count your fortune, liberty, life, dear unto your- 
selves, so ye may be instrumental in the restoring of it ? 
But suppose ye have this desire, who hath any power propor- 

rules laid down there includes a 
penalty for the breach thereof ; and 
Kennicott's criticism is a fair one, 
that the student swears to obey the 
statute or to accept the penalty. 
Something must also be allowed for 
the fact that some of the Statutes 
were made for conditions which no 
longer existed, and had become obso- 
lete. But when all this is taken into 
consideration, it is not good that 

men should swear to keep rules which 
they have no intention of observing. 
Sir W. Hamilton, Disc, in Phil, and 
Lit., p. 401, charges against Oxford 
' the systematic perjury so natural- 
ized in a great seminary of religious 
education.' Still, the fault lies 
rather in the authorities demanding 
an oath which they well know the 
students are not expected to keep, 
than in the students themselves. 

Scriptural Christianity in 

tioned to the effect ? Perhaps some of you have made a few 
faint attempts, but with how small success ! Shall Chris- 
tianity then be restored by young, unknown, inconsiderable 
men ? I know not whether ye yourselves could suffer it. 
Would not some of you cry out, ' Young man, in so doing thou 
reproachest us ' ? But there is no danger of your being put 
to the proof , so hath iniquity overspread us like a flood. 
Whom then shall God send ? — the famine, the pestilence (the 
last messengers of God to a guilty land), or the sword, ' the 
armies of the ' Romish ' aliens,' to reform us into our first 
love ? Nay, ' rather let us fall into Thy hand, Lord, and let 
us not fall into the hand of man.' 

Lord, save, or we perish ! Take us out of the mire, that 
we sink not ! help us against these enemies ! for vain is 
the help of man. Unto Thee all things are possible. According 
to the greatness of Thy power, preserve Thou those that are 
appointed to die , and preserve us in the manner that seemeth 
to Thee good , not as we will, but as Thou wilt ! 

ii. ' Young, unknown, and in- of thirty or forty may have as true 
considerable men.' Wesley is think- a judgement in the things of God as 
ing of his associates in the Holy Club one of fifty or fourscore ? ' 
at Oxford. It is difficult for those ' The armies of the Romish aliens.' 
of us who have been long engaged In February the whole of England 
in a college or university to realize had been thrown into trepidation 
how our old pupils have grown up I by the threat of a French invasion 
They are still to us the young fellows in the interests of the Young Pre- 
we knew in their undergraduate tender, and war was declared against 
days ; and so Wesley and Whitefield France on March 29. Rumours were 
doubtless appeared to the Oxford dons. rife that the Methodists were plot- 
In his Farther Appeal (1745) Wesley ting against the House of Hanover, 
says : ' A very commun exception and both John and Charles Wesley 
taken against these is, and was from were summoned before the magis- 
the beginning, that " they are so trates to prove their loyalty. Two 
young." Perhaps they are not so of Wesley's helpers, John Nelson and 
young as you conceive. Mr. White- John Downes, were pressed for mili- 
field is now upwards of thirty ; my tary service ; and Thomas Beard 
brother is thirty-seven years of age ; was pressed and lodged in jail at 
I have lived above forty-two years. Newcastle, where he died. 
Is it not possible that a person 



This sermon was first published In the volume of 1746. The Journal 
entry for October 6, 1739, at Gloucester, suggests, though it does not 
prove, that the sermon was first preached then : ' At five in the even- 
ing, I explained to about a thousand people the nature, the cause, and 
the condition or instrument of justification, from these words : " To him 
that worketh not," &c.' It was preached again at Markfield June 13, 
1741, from his father's tombstone at Epworth on June 8, 1742, and 
doubtless on many subsequent occasions. It is a clear exposition of 
the doctrine of justification as held by St. Paul, by Luther, by the 
Reformed Church of England, and substantially by all the Protestant 
Churches. The only point on which it needs some restatement in 
order to bring it into harmony with modern thought is its teaching 
as to the origin of sin. Wesley accepts the story of the third chapter 
of Genesis as literal history, and St. Paul's interpretation of it in 
Romans v. as final and authoritative. Indeed, he rather goes beyond 
anything that is actually stated in this old story in his picture of 
primitive man in I. 1 as a being morally and spiritually ' perfect as 
his Father in heaven is perfect.' Biology and anthropology will not allow 
of this literal interpretation. What they indicate is that the primitive 
pair, or primitive race, from which humanity took its origin, had 
gradually developed in physical structure and psychical characteristics 
from the lower animals of the vertebrate type. It had reached a point 
when the instincts of hunger and thirst and sex and so forth were 
fully developed ; when also admiration of colour and sound and 
proportion had begun to be felt ; and when curiosity and the desire 
for knowledge stirred man to activities of various kinds. Last of all 
came the growth of a moral sense, and the idea of duty ; and then 
only could the race be properly described as human. Before the 
coming of the moral sense man was not sinful, neither was he holy ; 
he was simply non-moral, innocent as a dog or a horse is innocent. 
But the moral sense involved a conflict with the older instincts and 
motives ; and these, through their long tenure and their consequent 
crystallization into habit, were necessarily stronger than the nascent 
new-comer ; yet, though defeated, the moral sense revenged itself by 
inspiring in the sinner shame and remorse, and a dread of the God 


Justification by Faith 113 

who was conceived as the ultimate source of the moral instincts. All 
this is symbolically indicated in the story of the Fall. A command 
is given which has a divine sanction, disobedience to which is wrong. 
The temptation to disobey comes from the serpent, the most subtle 
of all the lower animals, which therefore stands for the lower nature in 
its highest development. (There is no suggestion in Genesis that the 
serpent was an incarnation of the devil — that is quite a later addition ; 
and its popular acceptance in England is due more to Milton than to 
the Bible.) The temptation is accordingly addressed to the older 
physical and psychical motives. ' The tree was good for food ' — there 
is the appeal to the animal instinct of hunger ; ' it was pleasant to 
the eyes ' — there is the appeal to the aesthetic sentiment ; ' it was a 
tree to be desired to make one wise ' — there is the appeal to intellectual 
curiosity. In St. Paul's language it was a challenge to man to ' fulfil 
the desires of the flesh and the mind ' rather than the new impulse of 
the spirit. The result was inevitable — the older habits and instincts 
prevailed ; but with the defeat of conscience came the sense of shame, 
manifesting itself symbolically in special relation to the most im- 
perious of the instincts, and the dread of God and the separation 
from Him, which is spiritual death. The human race is involved in 
the sin of Adam, because it has received from him that human nature 
which in its very constitution makes sin inevitable. The story of 
the Fall is repeated, recapitulated, in the history of every individual 
of the race. In the infant we find only the purely animal instincts 
at work ; it eats and sleeps and nestles to the warmth of its mother's 
embrace. Then gradually we see the beginnings of aesthetic feelings, 
as it stretches out its hands to a brightly-coloured toy, or stops crying 
to listen to the sound of music. Later still comes curiosity, and it 
wants to grasp in its fingers or put into its mouth every new object 
of vision ; and as it gains the power of speech, it pours out question 
on question, to the distraction of its parents and friends. Last of all, 
after a long interval, arises the dim consciousness that some things 
which are desirable are naughty, and must not be done ; and the 
conflict begins in whkh, sooner or later, every man discovers that 
there is a law in his members, his bodily and intellectual outfit, warring 
with the law of his better self, and bringing him into a slavery from 
which he cannot free himself. The author of the Apocalypse of Baruch 
hit on a profound truth when he said (liv. 19), ' Adam is therefore 
not the cause [of sin] save only of his own soul, but each one of us 
has been the Adam of his own soul.' Sin is universal, because human 
nature is universal ; we derive it from Adam, only as we derive from 
him through heredity all the predispositions to disease and physical 
decay which are our common lot. As partakers of the Adamic or 
human nature, we are born in sin ; but as partakers of the deutero- 
Adamaic or divine nature, we may be so led by the Spirit that we 


114 Sermon V 

shall not fulfil the desires of the flesh, having been born again, ' not of 
corruptible seed but of incorruptible, through the word of God, which 
liveth and abideth for ever.' 

It is admitted that St. Paul in Romans v. interpreted the story of 
Genesis literally ; but in this he followed the methods of exegesis in 
which he had been trained. As Tennant says (Fall and Original Sin, 
p. 250) : ' His ideas of the first man, the temptation of Eve, the Fall 
and its results, were derived from the Jewish schools.' We are no 
more bound to accept the details of his interpretation here than in his 
treatment in Gal. iv. 21-31 of the story of Sarah and Hagar. 

Wesley naturally accepted St. Paul's view ; but in his Treatise on 
Original Sin he frankly says : ' That all men are liable to these 
[penalties] for Adam's sin alone I do not assert ; but they are so, 
for their own outward and inward sins, which, through their own fault, 
spring from the infection of their nature.' And again, on the ques- 
tion of the justice of God in punishing all mankind for the sin of Adam, 
he says : ' I do not understand it. It is quite beyond my understanding. 
It is a depth which I cannot fathom.' Nor does his view as to the 
origin of sin affect the argument of this sermon in any degree. The 
ground of the doctrine of justification is the universality of sin. How 
it came to be so, how it came into the world at all, is irrelevant ; it 
is here, and therefore some way of salvation from it must be found. 
Underlying the whole argument, though not expressed in so many 
words, there is the feeling that God needed, not only to justify the 
ungodly, but to justify Himself ; and this He does by the gift of His 

O felix culpa, quae talem meruit salvatorem I 

To him that worketh not, but believeth on Him that justifieth the ungodly, 
his faith is counted to him for righteousness. — Rom. iv. 5. 

i. How a sinner may be justified before God, the Lord and 
Judge of all, is a question of no common importance to every 
child of man. It contains the foundation of all our hope, 
inasmuch as while we are at enmity with God, there can be no 
true peace, no solid joy, either in time or in eternity. What 
peace can there be, while our own heart condemns us, and 
much more, He that is ' greater than our heart, and knoweth 

Par. 1. Wesley's interpretation of within us of a sincere love of the 
1 John iii. 20 is the one accepted by brethren, which is the sign of God's 
so sound an exegete as Dr. Findlay. presence within us, will enable us 
Westcott, on the other hand, para- to stay the accusations of our con- 
phrases the passage : ' The sense science, whatever they may be, be- 

Justification by Faith 


all things ' ? What solid joy, either in this world or that to 
come, while ' the wrath of God abideth on us ' ? 

2. And yet how little hath this important question been 
understood ? What confused notions have many had con- 
cerning it ! Indeed, not only confused, but often utterly 
false ; contrary to the truth, as light to darkness , notions 
absolutely inconsistent with the oracles of God, and with the 
whole analogy of faith. And hence, erring concerning the 
very foundation, they could not possibly build thereon; at 
least, not ' gold, silver, or precious stones,' which would 
endure when tried as by fire ; but only ' hay and stubble,' 
neither acceptable to God, nor profitable to man. 

3. In order to do justice, as far as in me lies, to the vast 
importance of the subject, to save those that seek the truth 
in sincerity from c vain jangling and strife of words,' to clear 
the confusedness of thought into which so many have already 
been led thereby, and to give them true and just conceptions 
of this great mystery of godliness, I shall endeavour to show,— 

I. What is the general ground of this whole 


II. What justification is , 
III. Who they are that are justified , and, 
IV On what terms they are justified. 

I. I am first to show, what is the general ground of this 
whole doctrine of justification. 

cause God, who gives, us this love, 
and so blesses us with His fellow- 
ship, is greater than our heart ; and 
He, having perfect knowledge, for- 
gives allon which our heart sadly 
dwells.' The Revisers' follow this 
interpretation. Dr. Findlay says: 
' The question is, Does the Apostle 
say " God is greater than our heart 
and knows all " by way of warning 
to the over-confident and self-excus- 
ing, to those tempted to disregard 
their secret misgivings ; or by way 
of comfort to the over-scrupulous 

and self -tormenting, to those tempted 
to brood over and magnify their mis- 
givings ? ' His own preference is 
for the first alternative ; ' Since his 
„_jown ignorant and partial heart con- 
demns him, let him consider what 
must be the verdict of the all-search- 
ing and all-holy Judge ' [Fellowship 
in the Life Eternal, p. 303). This is 
supported by St. Paul's statement 
in 1 Cor. iv. 4 : 'I know nothing 
against myself ; yet not on this 
ground am I justified. But He that 
trieth me is the Lord.' 

n6 Sermon V 

i. In the image of God was man made , holy as He that 
created him is holy ; merciful as the Author of all is merciful ; 
perfect as his Father in heaven is perfect. As God is love, so 
man, dwelling in love, dwelt in God, and God in him. God 
made him to be an ' image of His own eternity,' an incorrup- 
tible picture of the God of glory. He was accordingly pure, 
as God is pure, from every spot of sin. He knew not evil in 
any kind or degree, but was inwardly and outwardly sinless and 
undefiled. He ' loved the Lord his God with all his heart, and 
with all his mind, and soul, and strength.' 

2. To man, thus upright and perfect, God gave a perfect 
law, to which He required full and perfect obedience. He 
required full obedience in every point, and this to be performed 
without any intermission, from the moment man became a 
living soul, till the time of his trial should be ended. No 
allowance was made for any falling short. As, indeed, there 
was no need of any , man being altogether equal to the task 
assigned, and thoroughly furnished for every good word and 

3. To the entire law of love which was written in his heart 
(against which, perhaps, he could not sin directly), it seemed 
good to the sovereign wisdom of God to superadd one positive 
law ' Thou shalt not eat of the fruit of the tree that groweth 
in the midst of the garden ' , annexing that penalty thereto, 
' In the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die.' 

4. Such then was the state of man in Paradise. By the 

I. 1. 'An image of His own eter- manity are ' I am myself,' ' I ought^ 

nity ' (Wisdom ii. 23). This and the to 'do right,' ' I can pray.' As sobnT 

following paragraphs involve an in- "as he became capable of making 

terpretation of the phrase ' God these statements, he became a Man, 

created man in His own image ' self-determined, moral, religious, 

which cannot be sustained. The But these faculties were at first rather 

image of God in which man was capacities than achievements, and 

created is the ground of his dominion the history of man has been the 

over the lower animals ; and must record of the perpetual conflict be- 

be sought in that which distinguishes tween them and ' the tiger and the 

him from them — namely, self -con^ ape,' the animal instincts and 

scious personalityjtb^recognition of motives which had so long domin- 

JmOral distinctions, and the capacity ated him. See, however, the intro- 

__for fellow^shipjw^b^Gqd; The^three" duction to this sermon. 

_ fundamental propositions of Hu- 

Justification by Faith 117 

free, unmerited love of God, he was holy and happy : he knew, 
loved, enjoyed God, which is, in substance, life everlasting. 
And in this life of love he was to continue for ever, if he con- 
tinued to obey God in all things ; but if he disobeyed Him in 
any : he was to forfeit all. ' In that day,' said God, ' thou 
shalt surely die.' 

5. Man did disobey God. He ' ate of the tree, of which God 
commanded him, saying, Thou shalt not eat of it.' And in 
that day he was condemned by the righteous judgement of God. 
Then also the sentence, whereof he was warned before, began 
to take place upon him. v For the moment he tasted that fruit, 
he died. His soul died, was separated from God ; separate™ 
from whom the soul has nolnore life than the body has when 
separate from the soul. His body, likewise, became corruptible 
and mortal ; so that death then took hold on*this "also."" And 
being "already-dead in spirit, dead to God, dead in sin, he 
hastened on to death everlasting ; to the destruction both of 
body and soul, in the fire never to be quenched. 

6. Thus ' by one man sin entered into the world, and death 

5. Wesley believed that physical were the penalty intended in the 

death did not occur before the Fall sentence, ' In the day that thou 

of Man. In Sermon LVI, ii. i, he eatest thereof, thou shalt surely die,' 

says : ' God Almighty made no how is it that according to the story 

corruption, no destruction, in the Adam lived 930 years after the 

inanimate creation. He made not Fall ? But of course from the 

death in the animal creation ; nei- biological point of view, it is impos- 

ther its harbingers — sin and pain.' sible that under any circumstances 

The geological record, the successive the body of man should have lasted 

strata, which are the graveyards of longer than from seventy to a hun- 

innumerable forgotten species of dred years. Death is as necessary 

animals, conclusively disprove this, a part of physical development as 

The only possible question is whether, birth. The death which sin has 

if he had not sinned, man would brought is not the dissolution of soul 

have been physically immortal, from body, but the spiritual death 

Wesley thought so at this time ; but which alone makes physical death 

even the story in Genesis does not terrible. ' The sting of death is 

"Import his view ; and he changed _ sin'; apart from sin death would 

~ Ms opinion later, as is seen in Ser- have had no terror, and would have 

mon XXXIX, i. 3. If the body of been merely the translation of the 

man had been immortal, why should soul to a fuller and more spiritual 

*~it be necessary for him to eat of the~ life ; possibly enough without either 

JTree "otUfeT Tn""order that Jue-migliL. pain or reluctance, 
live for ever ? And if physical death 

n8 Sermon V 

by sin. And so death passed upon all men/ as being contained 
in him who was the common father and representative of us 
all. Thus, ' through the offence of one,' all are dead, dead to 
God, dead in sin, dwelling in a corruptible, mortal body, 
shortly to be dissolved, and under the sentence of death eternal. 
For as ' by one man's disobedience ' all ' were made sinners ' 
so, by that offence of one ' judgement came upon all men to 
condemnation ' (Rom. v. 12, &c). 

7. In this state we were, even all mankind, when ' God 
so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, to 
the end we might not perish, but have everlasting life.' In 
the fullness of time He was made man, another common Head 
of mankind, a second general Parent and Representative of the 
whole human race. And as such it was that ' He bore our 
griefs,' ' the Lord laying upon Him the iniquities of us all.' 
Then was He ' wounded for our transgressions, and bruised 
for our iniquities.' ' He made His soul an offering for sin ' : 
He poured out His blood for the transgressors , He ' bare our 
sins in His own body on the tree,' that by His stripes we might 
be healed and by that one oblation of Himself, once offered, 
He hath redeemed me and all mankind ; having thereby 
' made a full, perfect, and sufficient sacrifice and satisfaction 
for the sins of the whole world.' 

8. In consideration of this, that the Son of God hath ' tasted 
death for every man,' God hath now ' reconciled the world to 
Himself, not imputing to them their ' former ' trespasses,' 
And thus, ' as by the offence of one judgement came upon all 
men to condemnation ; even so by the righteousness of one 
the free gift came upon all men unto justification.' So that, 
for the sake of His well-beloved Son, of what He hath done and 
suffered for us, God now vouchsafes, on one only condition 
(which Himself also enables us to perform), both to remit the 
punishment due to our sins, to reinstate us in His favour, and 
to restore our dead souls to spiritual life, as the earnest of life 

9. This, therefore, is the general ground of the whole doctrine 

7. ' His one oblation.' See Prayer of Consecration in the Order for 
Holy Communion. 

Justification by Faith ng 

of justification. By the sin of the first Adam, who was not 
only the father, but likewise the representative, of us all, we all 
fell short of the favour of God , we all became children of wrath 
or, as the Apostle expresses it, ' judgement came upon all men 
to condemnation.' Even so, by the sacrifice for sin made by 
the second Adam, as the representative of us all, God is so far 
reconciled to all the world, that He hath given them a new 
covenant ; the plain condition whereof being once fulfilled, 
' there is no more condemnation ' for us, but ' we are justified 
freely by His grace, through the redemption that is in Jesus 

II. I. But what is it to be justified ? What is justification ? 
This was the second thing which I proposed to show. And it 
is evident, from what has been already observed, that it is not 
the being made actually just and righteous. This is sanctifica- 
tion ; which is, indeed, in some degree, the immediate fruit of 
justification, but, nevertheless, is a distinct gift of God, and of 
a totally different nature. The one implies, what God does 
for us through His Son , the other, what He works in us by His 
Spirit. So that, although some rare instances may be found, 
wherem'the term justified or justification is used in so wide a 
sense as to include sanctification also ; yet, in general use, they 
are sufficiently distinguished from each other, both by St. 
Paul and the other inspired writers. 

2. Neither is that far-fetched conceit, that justification is 
the clearing us from accusation, particularly that of Satan, 
easily proveable from any clear text of holy writ. In the whole 
scriptural account of this matter, as above laid down, neither 
that accuser nor his accusation appears to be at all taken in. 
It cannot indeed be denied, that he is the ' accuser ' of men, 
emphatically so called. But it does in no wise appear, that the 
great Apostle hath any reference to this, more or less, in all that 

II. 2. Apparently Wesley has in his supposed bargain. Augustine 

his mind the theory of Origen that (De Lib. Arb.iii. 10) follows on similar 

the human soul of our Lord was lines : ' God the Son subjugated 

given to the devil as a ransom for even the devil to man, extorting no- 

the souls of men ; but he could not thing from him by violence, but 

retain it, and so was outwitted in overcoming him by the law of justice.' 


Sermon V 

he hath written touching justification, either to the Romans or 
the Galatians. 

3. It is also far easier to take for granted, than to prove from 
any clear scripture testimony, that justification is the clearing 
us from the accusation brought against us by the law : at least, 
if this forced, unnatural way of speaking mean either more or 
less than this, that whereas we have transgressed the law of 
God, and thereby deserved the damnation of hell, God does not 
inflict on those who are justified the punishment which they 
had deserved. 

4. Least of all does justification imply, that God is deceived 
in those whom He justifies ; that He thinks them to be what, in 
fact, they are not , that He accounts them to be otherwise than 
they are. It does by no means imply, that God judges con- 
cerning us contrary to the real nature of things , that He 
esteems us better than we really are, or believes us righteous 
when we are unrighteous. Surely no. The judgement of the 
all-wise God is always according to truth. Neither can it ever 
consist with His unerring wisdom, to think that I am innocent, 
to judge that I am righteous or holy, because another is so. 
He can ho more, in this manner, confound me with Christ, than 
with David or Abraham. Let any man, to whom God hath 
given understanding, weigh this without prejudice ; and he 
cannot but perceive, that such a notion of justification is neither 
reconcileable to reason nor Scripture. 

5. The plain scriptural notion of justification is pardon, the 
forgiveness of sins. It is that act of God the "Father, whereby, 
"for the sake of the propitiation made by the blood of His Son, 

He ' showeth forth His righteousness ' (or mercy) ' by the re- 

3. Wesley fails to recognize fully 
the immanent necessity in the 
Divine Nature of an atonement for 
sin. Whether we regard God as the 
Governor of the universe, or as the 
Father of His family, His law must 
be vindicated. Perhaps the idea 
that the law brings an accusation 
against us errs in personifying the 
law, and so may be described as 
' forced and unnatural ' ; but the 

eternal necessity for the Atonement 
because of the violation of the law 
still remains, and cannot be so easily 
brushed out of the way. In Ser- 
mon XLIX, ii. 6, this is clearly 
enough stated : ' It pleased (God) 
to prepare for us Christ's body and 
blood, whereby our ransom might 
be paid, and His justice satisfied.' 

5. * Righteousness ' (or ' mercy '). 
§0 also in jv. j Wesley adds *or 

Justification by Faith 


mission of the sins that are past.' This is the easy, natural 
account of it given by St. Paul, throughout this whole epistle. 
So he explains it himself, more particularly in this, and in the 
following chapter. Thus, in the next verses but one to the 
text, ' Blessed are they,' saith he, ' whose iniquities are for- 
given, and whose sins are covered : blessed is the man to whom 
the Lord will not impute sin.' To him that is justified or for- 
given, God ' will not impute sin ' to his condemnation. He 
will not condemn him on that account, either in this world or in 
that which is to come. His sins, all his past sins, in thought, 
word and deed, are covered, are blotted out, shall not be re- 
membered or mentioned against him, any more than if they had 
not been. God will not inflict on that sinner what he deserved 
to suffer, because the Son of His love hath suffered for him. 
And from the time we are ' accepted through the Beloved,' 
' reconciled to God through His blood,' He loves, and blesses, 
and watches over us for good, even as if we had never sinned. 
Indeed the Apostle in one place seems to extend the meaning 
of the word much farther, where he says, ' Not the hearers of 
the law, but the doers of the law, shall be justified.' Here he 
appears to refer our justification to the sentence of the great 
day. And so our Lord Himself unquestionably doth, when 
He says, ' By thy words thou shalt be justified ' ; proving 
thereby that ' for every idle word men shall speak, they shall 

mercy ' to the text of St. Paul ; 
which confirms the statement made 
above on par. 3, that he failed, at 
any rate at this time, to recognize 
fully the necessity of the Atonement 
from the legal point of view. In the 
Notes, Rom. iii. 25, he makes the 
same addition, ' His justice and 
mercy.' The addition weakens the 
Apostle's argument ; the aim of 
which is to show that the death of 
Christ met the whole claim of divine 
justice, so that God could be just, 
and the justifier of the believing 
sinner ; or as St. John puts it, be 
' faithful and just to forgive us our 
sins.' Mercy provided the Atone- 

ment ; but, the Atonement now made, 
it is Justice that forgives. So Charles 
Wesley in Hymn 42 (Hymns and 
Sacred Poems, 1749) sings: 

My pardon I claim, 
For a sinner I am, 
A sinner believing in Jesus's name. 

' Not the hearers of the law.' 
This is no real exception to the uni- 
form usage of St. Paul ; for he is 
speaking of the heathen who ' do 
by nature the things of the law.' 
Nor are the few occurrences of the 
word ' justify ' in the Gospels rele- 
vant to the technical meaning of the 
word in St. Paul's Epistles, 

122 Sermon V 

give an account in the day of judgement ' ; but perhaps we 
can hardly produce another instance of St. Paul's using the 
word in that distant sense. In the general tenor of his writings, 
it is evident he doth not ; and least of all in the text before us, 
which undeniably speaks, not of those who have already 
' finished their course,' but of those who are now just setting 
out, just beginning to ' run the race which is set before them.' 

III. i. But this is the third thing which was to be considered, 
namely, Who are they that are justified ? And the Apostle 
tells us expressly, the ungodly : ' He ' (that is, God) ' justifieth 
the ungodly ' , the ungodly of every kind and degree ; and 
none but the ungodly. As ' they that are righteous need no 
repentance/ so they need no forgiveness. It is only sinners 
that have any occasion for pardon : it is sin alone which admits 
of being forgiven. Forgiveness, therefore, has an immediate 
reference to sin, and, in this respect, to nothing else. It is our 
unrighteousness to which the pardoning God is merciful it is 
our iniquity which He * remembereth no more.' 

2. This seems not to be at all considered by those who so 
vehemently contend that a man must be sanctified, that is, 
holy, before he can be justified ; especially by such of them as 
affirm, that universal holiness or obedience must precede 
justification. (Unless they mean that justification at the last 
day, which is wholly out of the present question.) So far from 
it, that the very supposition is not only flatly impossible-(foi^ 
where there is no love of God, there is no holiness, andjhere is 
'no love "of God but from a sense of His lovmg"lis), but also 
grossly, intrinsically absurd, contradictory "to" ifsetfr^or it 
is not a saint but a sinner that is forgiven, and under the notion 
of a sinner. God justifieth not the godly, but the ungodly; 
not those that are holy already, but the unholy. Upon_what 
condition He doeth this, will be considered quickly : but 
whatever It iSj-Jt-c^nqO^APly^^jTo assert this, is to say 
the Lamb of God takes away only those sins which were taken 
away before. 

III. 2 'Under the notion of a sinner,' i.e. considered as a sinner. 

Justification by Faith 123 

3. Does then the Good Shepherd seek and save only those 
that are found already ? No. He seeks and saves that which 
is lost. He pardons those who need His pardoning mercy. 
He saves from the guilt of sin (and, at the same time, from the 
power) sinners of every kind, of every degree ; men who, till 
then, were altogether ungodly ; in whom the love of the Father 
was not , and, consequently, in whom dwelt no good thing, 
no good or truly Christian temper , but all such as were evil 
and abominable — pride, anger, love of the world, the genuine 
fruits of that carnal mind which is ' enmity against God.' 

4. These who are sick, the burden of whose sins is intolerable, 
are they that need a Physician ; these who are guilty, who 
groan under the wrath of God, are they that need a pardon. 
These who are condemned already, not only by God, but also by 
their own conscience, as by a thousand witnesses, of all their 
ungodliness, both in thought, and word, and work, cry aloud 
for him that ' justifieth the ungodly,' through the redemption 
that is in Jesus, — the ungodly, and ' him that worketh not ' , 
that worketh not, before he is justified, anything that is good, 
that is truly virtuous or holy, but only evil continually. For 
his heart is necessarily, essentially evil, till the love of God is 
shed abroad therein. And while the tree is corrupt, so are the 
fruits , ' for an evil tree cannot bring forth good fruit.' 

5. If it be objected, ' Nay, but a man, before he is justified, 
may feed the hungry, or clothe the naked ; and these are good 
works,' — the answer is easy : He may do these, even before 
he is justified , and these are, in one sense, ' good works ' — 
they are ' good and profitable to men.' But it does not follow, 
that they are, strictly speaking, good in themselves, or good 
in the sight of God. All truly good works (to use the words of 
our Church) follow after justification ; and they are therefore 
good and ' acceptable to God in Christ,' because they ' spring 
out of a true and living faith.' By a parity of reason, all works 
done before justification are not good, in the Christian sense, foras- 
much as they spring not of faith in Jesus Christ (though [often] 
from some kind of faith in God they may spring) , ' yea rather, 

5. See Articles xii. and xiii. But see note on Sermon I, par. 2. 


Sermon V 

for that they are not done as God hath willed and command 
them to be done, we doubt not ' (how strange soever it m; 
appear to some) ' but they have the nature of sin.' 

6. Perhaps those who doubt of this have not duly consider* 
the weighty reason which is here assigned, why no works doi 
before justification can be truly and properly good. T] 
argument plainly runs thus : — 

No works are good, which are not done as God hath willt 
and commanded them to be done 

But no works done before justification are done as God hal 
willed and commanded them to be done 

Therefore, no works done before justification are good. 

The first proposition is self-evident , and the second— th, 
no works done before justification are done as God hath wilh 
and commanded them to be done — will appear equally pla 
and undeniable, if we only consider, God hath willed ar 
commanded, that all our works should be done in chan 
(iv wydirrj), in love, in that love to God which produces love 1 
all mankind. But none of our works can be done in this \m 
while the love of the Father (of God as our Father) is not in us 
and this love cannot be in us till we receive the ' Spirit < 
adoption, crying in our hearts, Abba, Father.' If, therefor 
God doth not justify the ungodly, and him that (in this sens 
worketh not, then hath Christ died in vain , then, notwithstan* 
ing His death, can no flesh living be justified. 

IV. I. But on what terms, then, is he justified, who 
altogether ungodly, and till that time worketh not ? On ©| 
alone, which is faith he ' believeth in Him that justifiet 
the ungodly.' And ' he that believeth is not condemned ' 
yea, he is ' passed from death unto life.' ' For the righteoir 

6. This argument is not convinc- 
ing. St. Paul (i Cor. xvi. 14) says 
to the factious Christians of Corinth, 
' Let all that you do be done in 
love ' ; but it is an unwarrantable 
forcing of his meaning to say that 
love stands for * that love to God 
which produces love to all mankind.' 

And it is impossible to maintain th; 
no man before his conversion do 
anything in love. Can it be sa: 
without a manifest paradox that fl 
man described in Sermon II, i» ■) 
does not act in love ? 

IV. 1. 'Righteousness (or mercy) 
See note on ii. 5 above. 

Justification by Faith 125 

ness ' (or mercy) ' of God is by faith of Jesus Christ unto all 
and upon all them that believe : whom God hath set forth for 
a propitiation, through faith in His blood ; that He might be 
just, and ' (consistently with His justice) ' the justifier of him 
which believeth in Jesus ' : ' therefore, we conclude, that a 
man is justified by faith, without the deeds of the law ' ; 
without previous obedience to the moral law, which, indeed, 
he could not, till now, perform. That it is the moral law, 
and that alone, which is here intended, appears evidently 
from the words that follow : ' Do we then make void the law 
through faith ? God forbid ! Yea, we establish the law.' 
What law do we establish by faith ? Not the ritual law 
not the ceremonial law of Moses. In no wise , but the great, 
unchangeable law of love, the holy love of God and of our 

2. Faith in general is a divine, supernatural e\eyx°^> evi- 
dence or conviction, ' of things not seen,' not discoverable by 
our bodily senses, as being either past, future, or spiritual. 
Justifying faith implies, not only a divine evidence or conviction 
that ' God was in Christ, reconciling the world unto Himself/ 
but a sure trust and confidence that Christ died for my sins, that 
He loved me, and gave Himself for me. And at what time 
soever a sinner thus believes, be it in early childhood, in the 
strength of his years, or when he is old and hoary-haired, 
God Justine th that ungodly one God, for the sake of His Son, 
pardoneth and absolveth him who had in him, till then, no 
good thing. Repentance, indeed, God had given him before ; 
but that 'repentance was neither more nor less than a deep 
sense of the want of all good, and the presence of all evil. 
And whatever good he hath, or doeth, from that hour, wherT 
he first believes in God through Christ, faith does not find, but 
bring. This is the fruit of faith. First the tree is good, and 
then the fruit is good also. 

3. I cannot describe the nature of this faith better than in 
the words of our own Church : ' The only instrument of 
salvation ' (whereof justification is one branch) ' is faith , 
that is, a sure trust and confidence that God both hath and 
will forgive our sins, that He hath accepted us again into His 

126 Sermon V 

favour, for the merits of Christ's death and passion. But here 
we must take heed that we do not halt with God through an 
inconstant, wavering faith Peter, coming to Christ upon 
the water, because he fainted in faith, was in danger of drown- 
ing , so we, if we begin to waver or doubt, it is to be feared 
that we shall sink as Peter did, not into the water, but into 
the bottomless pit of hell-fire.' 

' Therefore, have a sure and constant faith, not only that 
the death of Christ is available for all the world, but that He 
hath made a full and sufficient sacrifice for thee, a perfect 
cleansing of thy sins, so that thou mayest say, with the Apostle, 
He loved thee, and gave Himself for thee. For this is to make 
Christ thine own, and to apply His merits unto thyself.' 

4. By affirming that this faith is the term or condition of 
justification, I mean, first, that there is no justification without 
it. ' He that believeth not is condemned already ' ; and so 
long as he believeth not, that condemnation cannot be removed, 
but ' the wrath of God abide th on him.' As ' there is no 
other name given under heaven ' than that of Jesus of Nazareth, 
no other merit whereby a condemned sinner can ever be saved 
from the guilt of sin, so there is no other way of obtaining a 
share in His merit, than by faith in His name. So that as long 
as we are without this faith, we are ' strangers to the covenant 
of promise,' we are ' aliens from the commonwealth of Israel, 
and without God in the world.' Whatsoever virtues (so called) 
a man may have — I speak of those unto whom the gospel is 
preached , for ' what have I to do to judge them that are 
without ? ' — whatsoever good works (so accounted) he may 
do, it profiteth not ; he is still a child of wrath, still under the 
curse, till he believes in Jesus. 

5. Faith, therefore, is the necessary condition of justification , 
yea, and the only necessary condition thereof. This is the 

3. The first quotation is from the of the First Part of the Homily on 

penultimate paragraph of the Second the Sacrament, also somewhat ab- 

Homily on the Passion. Wesley breviated. 

condenses it, but nothing of vital 4. Note the important qualifica- 

importance is omitted. The second tion of the statement that there can 

is from the penultimate paragraph be no good works before conversion. 

Justification by Faith 127 

second point carefully to be observed , that, the very moment 
God giveth faith (for it is the gift of God) to the ' ungodly ' 
that ' worketh not/ that ' faith is counted to him for righteous- 
ness/ He hath no righteousness at all, antecedent to this , 
not so much as negative righteousness, or innocence. But 
' faith is imputed to him for righteousness ' the very moment 
that he believeth. Not that God (as was observed before) 
thinketh him to be what he is not. But as ' He made Christ 
to be sin for us/ that is, treated Him as a sinner, punishing 
Him for our sins, so He counteth us righteous, from the time 
we believe in Him : that is, He doth not punish us for our 
sins , yea, treats us as though we were guiltless and righteous. 

6. Surely the difficulty of assenting to this proposition, 
that ' faith is the only condition of justification,' must arise 
from not understanding it. We mean thereby thus much, 
that it is the only thing without which no one is justified ; the 
only thing that is immediately, indispensably, absolutely 
requisite in order to pardon. As, on the one hand, though a 
man should have everything else without faith, yet he cannot 
be justified , so, on the other, though he be supposed to want 
everything else, yet if he hath faith, he cannot but be justified. 
For suppose a sinner of any kind or degree, in a full sense of 
his total ungodliness, of his utter inability to think, speak, or 
do good, and his absolute meetness for hell-fire ; suppose, I 
say, this sinner, helpless and hopeless, casts himself wholly on 
the mercy of God in Christ (which indeed he cannot do but 
by the grace of God), who can doubt but he is forgiven in that 
moment ? Who will affirm that any more is indispensably 
required, before that- sinner can be justified ? 

Now, if there ever was one such instance from the beginning 
of the world (and have there not been, and are there not, ten 
thousand times ten thousand ?), it plainly follows, that faith 
is, in the above sense, the sole condition of justification. 

7. It does not become poor, guilty, sinful worms, who 
receive whatsoever blessings they enjoy (from the least drop 
of water that cools our tongue, to the immense riches of glory 

5. ' It is the gift of God.' See note on Sermon I, iii. 3. 


Sermon V 

in eternity), of grace, of mere favour, and not of debt, to J 
of God the reasons of His conduct. It is not meet for us 
call Him in question, ' who giveth account to none of I 
ways ' , to demand, Why didst Thou make faith the condi$| 
the only condition, of justification ? Wherefore didst T| 
decree, He that believeth, and he only, shall be saved ? This is | 
very point on which St. Paul so strongly insists in the nin 
chapter of this Epistle, viz. that the terms of pardon a 
acceptance must depend, not on us, but on Him that calleth u 
that there is no unrighteousness with God, in fixing His <n 
terms, not according to ours, but His own good pleasur 
who may justly say, ' I will have mercy on whom I will ha 
mercy,' namely, on him who believeth in Jesus. ' So th 
it is not of him that willeth, nor of him that runneth,' 
choose the condition on which he shall find acceptance, ' b 
of God that showeth mercy ' , that accepteth none at 2 
but of His own free love, His unmerited goodness. ' Therefc 

7. Wesley accepts the interpreta- 
tion given by Arminius of Rom. ix. 
6-29. But to an impartial reader, 
it must be clear that this is not what 
St. Paul meant. He is asserting the 
absolute sovereignty of God, as 
Calvin saw, and not proving that 
faith is the condition of justification. 
There are three possible explana- 

(1) Fritsche thinks that Paul was 
carried away by his argument, and 
so was led to contradict the whole 
tenor of his teaching in the former 
part of the Epistle. 

(2) Meyer (with whom I agree) 
holds that the absolute sovereignty 
of God and the moral freedom of 
man are two truths, or rather two 
aspects of the truth, which are both 
incontestably proved, yet cannot be 
reconciled in our finite thought. In 
all truths which have to do with the 
Infinite, we find this irreconcilable 
antithesis, as Sir W- Hamilton shows. 
Is Space infinite or limited ? If 

infinite, then there is no possibfl 
of fixing a locus for anything ; 
limited, we cannot avoid think 
of space beyond the limit. V 
there ever a beginning to Time ? 
not, we could never have reached 
present moment ; if there was, th 
must have been a moment bef 
that beginning. . So with 
Trinity and Unity of the Godhes 
the human and divine natures in 
one Christ: God is Three, God 
One ; Christ is God, Christ is ffi 
Each proposition is true, yet we c 
not by any effort of our intellect c 
ceive them as both true together, i 
more than we can see at one gla 
the two sides of a coin, or the wh 
surface of a sphere. We accept a 
statement as one aspect of the f 
orbed truth, but our finite m 
cannot grasp the two aspects in o 
So is it with the sovereignty of C 
and the freewill of man. They 
the two sides of the one truth. 
(3) Beyschlag and many oth 

Justification by Faith 


hath He mercy on whom He will have mercy/ viz. on those 
who believe on the Son of His love , ' and whom He will/ 
that is, those who believe not, ' He hardeneth/ leaves at last 
to the hardness of their hearts. 

8. One reason, however, we may humbly conceive, of God's 
fixing this condition of justification, ' If thou believest in the 
Lord Jesus Christ, thou shalt be saved/ was to hide pride from 
man. Pride had already destroyed the very angels of God, 
had cast down ' a third part of the stars of heaven.' It was 
likewise in great measure owing to this, when the tempter 
said, ' Ye shall be as gods,' that Adam fell from his own 
steadfastness, and brought sin and death into the world. It 
was therefore an instance of wisdom worthy of God, to appoint 
such a condition of reconciliation for him and all his posterity, 
as might effectually humble, might abase them to the dust. 
And such is faith. It is peculiarly fitted for this end : for he 
that cometh unto God by this faith, must fix his eye singly on 
his own wickedness, on his guilt and helplessness, without 
having the least regard to any supposed good in himself, to 
any virtue or righteousness whatsoever. He must come as a 
mere sinner, inwardly and outwardly, self-destroyed and self-^ 
condemned, bringing nothing to God but ungodliness only, 
pTeaHing^ nothing of his own but sin and misery. Thus it is, 
and thus alone, when his mouth is stopped, and he stands 
utterly guilty before God, that he can look unto Jesus, as the 
whole and sole propitiation for his sins. Thus only can he 

think that St. Paul is dealing, not 
with individual but with national 
destiny, as realized in this world. 
His subject is the position in his- 
tory of the Jewish nation, not the 
future doom of individuals. For a 
full discussion of this difficult ques- 
tion, see Sanday and Headlam on 

8. The story of the Fall of the 
A.ngels rests upon a rather precarious 
foundation. The only definite men- 
tion of it in Scripture is in the sixth 
verse of Jude, copied in 2 Pet. ii. 4. 
Jude took it from the Book of 


Enoch, and ultimately it rested on a 
rabbinical interpretation of Gen. vi. 
1-4. It was not, however, through 
pride, but through lust, that these 
'sons of God' fell. It is Milton 
who has made the idea of the ambition 
of Satan, and his consequent re- 
bellion and defeat, familiar to English 
readers. The fall of the ' third part 
of the stars ' (Rev. viii. 12) has 
nothing to do with the matter. 

Wesley might have found a much 
better reason for God's fixing faith 
as the condition of salvation than 
this. The essence of faith is that 

130 Sermon V 

be found in Him, and receive the ' righteousness which is of 
God by faith.' 

9. Thou ungodly one, who hearest or readest these words ! 
thou vile, helpless, miserable sinner ! I charge thee before God 
the Judge of all, go straight unto Him, with all thy ungodliness. 
Take heed thou destroy not thy own soul by pleading thy 
righteousness, more or less. Go as altogether ungodly, guilty, 
lost, destroyed, deserving and dropping into hell , and thou 
shalt then find favour in His sight, and know that He justifieth 
the ungodly. As such thou shalt be brought unto the blood 
of sprinkling, as an undone, helpless, damned sinner. Thus 
look unto fesus ! There is the Lamb of God, who taketh away 
thy sins ! Plead thou no works, no righteousness of thine 
own ! no humility, contrition, sincerity ! In no wise. That 
were, in very deed, to deny the Lord that bought thee. No 
plead thou singly the blood of the covenant, the ransom paid 
for thy proud, stubborn, sinful soul. Who art thou, that now 
seest and feelest both thine inward and outward ungodliness ? 
Thou art the man ! I want thee for my Lord ! I challenge 
thee for a child of God by faith ! The Lord hath need of thee. 
Thou who feelest thou art just fit for hell, art just fit to advance 
His glory ; the glory of His free grace, justifying the ungodly 
and him that worketh not. O come quickly ! Believe in 
the Lord Jesus, and thou, even thou, art reconciled to God. 

it unites the soul to Christ. He is delivers us from sin ; so that we 
TdTmed in our hearts by faith ; and can say, ' I no longer live, but Christ 
it is this vital union with Him that liveth in me.' 


In Journal, June 12, 1742, Wesley says, ' I preached on the righteous- 
ness of the law and the righteousness of faith.' [This was at Epworth.] 
' While I was speaking, several dropped down as dead, and among 
the rest such a cry was heard of sinners groaning for the righteousness 
of faith as almost drowned my voice. But many of these soon lift 
up their heads with joy, and broke out into thanksgiving, being assured 
they now had the desire of their souls — the forgiveness of their sins.' 
On June 17 he preached on the same subject at Sheffield, and 'had 
not half finished my discourse when I was constrained to break off 
in the midst, our hearts were so filled with a sense of the love of God, 
and our mouths with prayer and thanksgiving. When we were some- 
what satisfied herewith, I went on to call sinners to the salvation ready 
to be revealed.' 

It seems a pity that a sermon so clear, convincing, and effective 
should have been based on a misinterpretation of the text. But so it 
is. To begin with, Wesley affirms that the first verse refers to an alleged 
covenant of works made with Adam while in Paradise, and not to the 
covenant given by Moses. The passage occurs in Lev. xviii. 5, and 
runs, ' Ye shall therefore keep My statutes, and My judgements ; 
which, if a man do, he shall live in them.' The phrase ' My statutes 
and judgements ' is used several times in Leviticus, and refers always 
to the laws which are there laid down. The Covenant of Works is a 
theological fiction, which made its first appearance about the begin- 
ning of the seventeenth century. It is not found in any of the creeds 
or symbols, except the Westminster Confession (1648), in which 
chap. vii. sec. 2 runs : ' The first covenant made with man was a 
covenant of works, wherein life was promised to Adam, and in him 
to his posterity, upon condition of perfect and personal obedience.' 
Wesley admits that both passages ' were spoken by Moses himself to 
the people of Israel, and that concerning the covenant which then 
was.' Yet all through the sermon he takes the first passage as refer- 
ring to the covenant of works. He rightly says that the second 
passage also had its original reference to the law of Moses ; but he 
fails to notice, at any rate explicitly, that St. Paul does not quote 


132 Sermon VI 

the exact words of Moses (Deut. xxx. 11-14), but modifies them to 
suit his purpose, and puts them into the mouth of ' the righteousness 
which is of faith ' personified. What Moses said was that the law 
was not too hard for the people to observe ; it had not to be fetched 
from heaven, or from over the sea ; on the contrary, it was actually 
in their mouth and heart. St. Paul adapts this saying, which hao" 
already become proverbial (see 4 Esdras iv. 8, Baruch iii. 29, Jubilees 
xxiv. 32), and makes the Righteousness of Faith say, ' It is not neces- 
sary to bring Christ down from above ; He has already become in- 
carnate amongst men : nor to bring Him back from the dead ; He 
has already been raised from the grave ; there are no impossibilities 
required of thee ; the word of salvation is in thy mouth and heart. 
Thou hast but to believe on Christ in thy heart, and confess Him 
with thy mouth, and thou art saved.' St. Paul's argument is thai 
the gospel, like the law, is clearly revealed to men by the preaching 
of himself and his fellow apostles ; but, unlike the law, it demands 
not a perfect and unbroken obedience to precepts, but a faith which 
makes righteousness possible. Thus Wesley's premisses are all 
wrong, but his conclusions are all right ; which happened sometimes 
even to St. Paul himself, as in 1 Cor. ix. 9. 

Moses describeth the righteousness which is of the law, That the man which 

doeth those things shall live by them. 
But the righteousness which is of faith speaketh on this wise, Say not H 

thine heart, Who shall ascend into heaven {that is, to bring Christ 

down from above) ? 
Or, Who shall descend into the deep {that is, to bring up Christ again from 

the dead) ? I 

But what saith it ? The word is nigh thee, even in thy mouth, oind in thy 

heart : that is, the word of faith, which we preach. — Rom. x :. 5-8. 

i. The Apostle does not here oppose the covenant , *iven by 
Moses, to the covenant given by Christ. If we ever : imagined 
this, it was for want of observing, that the latter as; well as 
the former part of these words were spoken by Moses himself 
to the people of Israel, and that concerning the covenant which 
then was (Deut. xxx. 11, 12, 14). But it is the covenant of 
grace, which God, through Christ, hath established with men 
in all ages (as well before and under the Jewish dispensation, 
as since God was manifest in the flesh), which St. Paul here 
opposes to the covenant of works, made with Adam while in 
paradise, but commonly supposed to be the only covenant 

The Righteousness of Faith 133 

which God had made with man, particularly by those Jews 
of whom the Apostle writes. 

2. Of these it was that he so affectionately speaks in the 
beginning of this chapter ' My heart's desire and prayer 
to God for Israel is, that they may be saved. For I bear them 
record, that they have a zeal for God, but not according to 
knowledge. For they being ignorant, of God's righteousness ' 
(of the justification that flows from His mere .grace L.and mercy, 

~i7eeTy~forgiving our sins through the Son of His love, through 
"tile redemption which is in Jesus) ' and seeking to establish 
their"OWn righteousness ' (their own holiness, antecedent to 
faith in ' Him that justifieth the ungodly.' as the ground of 
their pardon and acceptance), ' have not submitted themselves 
unto the righteousness of God,' and consequently, seek death 
in the error of their life. 

3. They were ignorant that ' Christ is the end of the law for 
righteousness to every one that believeth,' — that, by the 
oblation of Himself once offered, He had put an end to the 
first law or covenant (which, indeed, was not given by God to 
Moses, but to Adam in his state of innocence), the strict tenor 
whereof, without any abatement, was, ' Do this, and live ' , 
and, at the same time, purchased for us that better covenant, 
' Believe, and live ' , believe, and thou shalt be saved ; now 
saved, both from the guilt and power of sin, and, of consequence, 
from the wages of it. 

4. And how many are equally ignorant now, even among 
those who are called by the name of Christ ! How many who 
have now ' a zeal for God,' yet have it not ' according to know- 
ledge ' ; but are still seeking ' to establish their own righteous- 
ness ' as the ground of their pardon and acceptance ; and 
therefore vehemently refuse to ' submit themselves unto the 
righteousness of God ' ! Surely my heart's desire, and prayer to 
God for you, brethren, is, that ye may be saved. And, in order 
to remove this grand stumbling-block out of your way, I will 
endeavour to show, first, what the righteousness is which is of 

Par. 2. ' Seek death in the error of 3. ' The oblation/ &c. From the 

their life.' Wisdom i. 12, ' Seek not Consecration Prayer in the Office for 
death in the error of your life.' Holy Communion. 

134 Sermon VI 

the law, and what ' the righteousness which is of faith ' ; 
secondly, the folly of trusting in the righteousness of the law, 
and the wisdom of submitting to that which is of faith. 

1. I. And, first, ' the righteousness which is of the law saith, 
The man which doeth these things shall live by them.' Con- 
stantly and perfectly observe all these things to do them, and 
then thou shalt live for ever. This law, or covenant (usually 
called the covenant of works), given by God to man in paradise, 
required an obedience perfect in all its parts, entire and wanting 
nothing, as the condition of his eternal continuance in the 
holiness and happiness wherein he was created. 

2. It required that man should fulfil all righteousness, 
inward and outward, negative and positive : that he should not 
only abstain from every idle word, and avoid every evil work, 
but should keep every affection, every desire, every thought, 
in obedience to the will of God , that he should continue holy 
as He which had created him was holy, both in heart, and in 
all manner of conversation , that he should be pure in heart, 
even as God is pure , perfect as his Father in heaven was 
perfect that he should love the Lord his God with all his heart, 
with all his soul, with all his mind, and with all his strength , 
that he should love every soul which God had made, even as 
God had loved him that by this universal benevolence, he 
should dwell in God (who is love), and God in him that he 
should serve the Lord his God with all his strength, and in all 
things singly aim at His glory. 

3. These were the things which the righteousness of the 
law required, that he who did them might live thereby. But 
it farther required, that this entire obedience to God, this 
inward and outward holiness, this conformity both of heart 
and life to His will, should be perfect in degree. No abatement, 
no allowance could possibly be made, for falling short in any 
degree, as to any jot or tittle, either of the outward or the in- 
ward law. If every commandment relating to outward things 
was obeyed, yet that was not sufficient, unless every one was 
obeyed with all the strength, in the highest measure, and most 
perfect manner. Nor did it answer the demand of this 

The Righteousness of Faith 135 

covenant to love God with every power and faculty, unless 
He were loved with the full capacity of each, with the whole 
possibility of the soul. 

4. One thing more was indispensably required by the right- 
eousness of the law, namely, that this universal obedience, this 
perfect holiness both of heart and life, should be perfectly 
uninterrupted also, should continue without any intermission, 
from the moment wherein God created man, and breathed into 
his nostrils the breath of life, until the days of his trial should 
be ended, and he should be confirmed in life everlasting. 

5. The righteousness, then, which is of the law, speaketh 
on this wise : ' Thou, O man of God, stand fast in love, in the 
image of God wherein thou art made. If thou wilt remain in 
life, keep the commandments, which are now written in thy 
heart. Love the Lord thy God with all thy heart. Love, as 
thyself, every soul that He hath made. Desire nothing but 
God. Aim at God in every thought, in every word and work. 
Swerve not in one motion of body or soul, from Him, thy mark, 
and the prize of thy high calling ; and let all that is in thee 
praise His holy name, every power and faculty of thy soul, in 
every kind, in every degree, and at every moment of thine 
existence. " This do, and thou shalt live " : thy light shall 
shine, thy love shall flame, more and more, till thou art received 
up into the house of God in the heavens, to reign with Him for 
ever and ever.' 

6. ' But the righteousness which is of faith speaketh on this 
wise : Say not in thine heart, Who shall ascend into heaven ? 
that is, to bring down Christ from above ' (as though it were 
some impossible task which God required thee previously to 
perform, in order to thine acceptance) ; ' or, Who shall descend 
into the deep ? that is, to bring up Christ from the dead ' (as 
though that were still remaining to be done, for the sake of 
which thou wert to be accepted) , ' but what saith it ? The 
word,' according to the tenor of which thou may est now be 
accepted as an heir of life eternal, ' is nigh thee, even in thy 
mouth, and in thy heart : that is, the word of faith, which we 
preach' — the new covenant which God hath now established 
with sinful man through Christ Jesus. 


Sermon VI 

7. By ' the righteousness which is of faith ' is meant, that 
condition of justification (and, in consequence, of present and 
final salvation, if we endure therein unto the end) which was 
given by God to fallen man, through the merits and mediation 
of His only-begotten Son. This was in part revealed to Adam, 
soon after his fall , being contained in the original promise, 
made to him, and his seed, concerning the Seed of the woman, 
who should ' bruise the serpent's head ' (Gen. iii. 15). It 
was a little more clearly revealed to Abraham, by the Angel 
of God from heaven, saying, ' By Myself have I sworn, saith 
the Lord, that in thy Seed shall all the nations of the world 
be blessed ' (Gen. xxii. 16, 18). It was yet more fully made 
known to Moses, to David, and to the prophets that followed ; 
and, through them, to many of the people of God in their 
respective generations. But still the bulk even of these were 
ignorant of it , and very few understood it clearly. Still ' life 
and immortality ' were not so ' brought to light ' to the Jews 
of old, as they are now unto us ' by the gospel.' 

8. Now this covenant saith not to sinful man, ' Perform 
unsinning obedience, and live.' If this were the term, he 
would have no more benefit by all which Christ hath done and 
suffered for him, than if he was required, in order to life, to 
' ascend into heaven, and bring down Christ from above ' ; 

I. 7. The belief that Gen. iii. 15 
was a prophecy of the victory of 
Christ over the devil, which has given 
it the name of the Protevangelium, 
is not found in the New Testament. 
It can be traced back to Irenaeus 
(Advers. Heres. iv. 40, v. 21), but 
was popularized by Luther, and was 
commonly entertained after the six- 
teenth century. In the first in- 
stance it can hardly be doubted that 
nothing more was intended than to 
account for the enmity between man 
and the serpent-race. The descen- 
dants of the woman are to make for, 
or attack, the head of the serpent, 
whilst it makes for, or attacks, their 
heels. There is constant warfare, 

but no victory is promised to either 
side. The serpent kills the man 
just as surely by biting his heel as 
the man kills the serpent by crush- 
ing its head. But the serpent being 
in the story the agent of temptation, 
as the most subtle of the lower 
animals, the passage points to the 
never-ending fight between the higher 
and the lower natures in man, be- 
tween the law of the mind and the 
law in the members, Any Messianic 
reference has to be brought to the 
text ; it is not there. This view 
only adds force to Wesley's argu- 
ment that the gospel was not known 
in any degree of fullness to the Jews 
of old. 

The Righteousness of Faith 137 

or to ' descend into the deep,' into the invisible world, and 
' bring up Christ from the dead.' It doth not require any 
impossibility to be done (although, to mere man, what it 
requires would be impossible ; but not to man assisted by the 
Spirit of God) : this were only to mock human weakness. 
Indeed, strictly speaking, the covenant of grace doth not require 
us to do anything at all, as absolutely and indispensably neces- 
sary in order to our justification , but only to believe in Him 
who, for the sake of His Son, and the propitiation which He 
hath made, ' justifieth the ungodly that worketh not,' and 
imputes his faith to him for righteousness. Even so Abraham 
' believed in the Lord, and He counted it to him for righteous- 
ness ' (Gen. xv. 6). ' And he received the sign of circumcision, 
a seal of the righteousness of faith that he might be the 

father of all them that believe that righteousness might 

be imputed unto them also ' (Rom. iv. 11). ' Now it was not 
written for his sake alone, that it,' i.e. faith, ' was imputed to 
him , but for us also, to whom it shall be imputed,' to whom 
faith shall be imputed for righteousness, shall stand in the stead 
of perfect obedience, in order to our acceptance with God, ' if 
we believe on Him who raised up Jesus our Lord from the dead , 
who was delivered ' to death ' for our offences, and was raised 
again for our justification ' (Rom. iv. 23-25) : for the assurance 
of the remission of our sins, and of a second life to come, to 
them that believe. 

9. What saith then the covenant of forgiveness, of unmerited 
love, of pardoning mercy ? ' Believe in the Lord Jesus Christ, 
and thou shalt be saved.' In the day thou belie vest, thou 
shalt surely live. Thou shalt be restored to the favour of God , 
and in His pleasure is life. Thou shalt be saved from the curse, 
and from the wrath, of God. Thou shalt be quickened from 
the death of sin into the life of righteousness. And if thou 
endure to the end, believing in Jesus, thou shalt never taste 

8. This view of faith overlooks the that ye should believe on Him whom 

fact that it is essentially an act of He hath sent.' On the question of 

the will, not merely an attitude of imputation, see Sermon XLIX and 

the intellect, or a state of the emo- the notes thereon, 
tions. ' This is the work of God, 

138 Sermon VI 

the second death ; but, having suffered with thy Lord, shalt 
also live and reign with Him for ever and ever. 

10. Now ' this word is nigh thee.' This condition of life is 
plain, easy, always at hand. ' It is in thy mouth, and in thy 
heart/ through the operation of the Spirit of God. The 
moment ' thou believest in thine heart ' in Him whom God 
' hath raised from the dead,' and ' confessest with thy mouth 
the Lord Jesus,' as thy Lord and thy God, ' thou shalt be saved ' 
from condemnation, from the guilt and punishment of thy 
former sins, and shalt have power to serve God in true holiness 
all the remaining days of thy life. 

11. What is the difference then between the ' righteousness 
which is of the law,' and the ' righteousness which is of faith ' ? 
between the first covenant, or the covenant of works, and the 
second, the covenant of grace ? The essential, unchangeable 
difference is this : the one supposes him to whom it is given, 
to be already holy and happy, created in the image and enjoying 
the favour of God , and prescribes the condition whereon he 
may continue therein, in love and joy, life and immortality: 
the other supposes him to whom it is given, to be now unholy 
and unhappy, fallen short of the glorious image of God, having 
the wrath of God abiding on him, and hastening, through sin, 
whereby his soul is dead, to bodily death, and death ever- 
lasting ; and to man in this state it prescribes the condition 
whereon he may regain the pearl he has lost, may recover the 
favour and image of God, may retrieve the life of God in his 
soul, and be restored to the knowledge and the love of God, 
which is the beginning of life eternal. 

12. Again : the covenant of works, in order to man's con- 
tinuance in the favour of God, in His knowledge and love, in 
holiness and happiness, required of perfect man a perfect and 
uninterrupted obedience to every point of the law of God. 
Whereas, the covenant of grace, in order to man's recovery of 
the favour and the life of God, requires only faith , living faith 
in Him who, through God, justifies him that obeyed not. 

13. Yet, again : the covenant of works required of Adaifi, 
and all his children, to pay the price themselves, in consideration 
of which they were to receive all the future blessings of God, 

The Righteousness of Faith 139 

But in the covenant of grace, seeing we have nothing to pay, 
God ' frankly forgives us all ' : provided only, that we believe 
in Him who hath paid the price for us , who hath given Himself 
a ' propitiation for our sins, for the sins of the whole world.' 

14. Thus the first covenant required what is now afar off 
from all the children of men ; namely, unsinning obedience, 
which is far from those who are ' conceived and born in sin.' 
Whereas, the second requires what is nigh at hand , as though 
it should say, ' Thou art sin ! God is love ! Thou by sin art 
fallen short of the glory of God ; yet there is mercy with Him. 
Bring then all thy sins to the pardoning God, and they shall 
vanish away as a cloud. If thou wert not ungodly, there 
would be no room for Him to justify thee as ungodly. But 
now draw near, in full assurance of faith. He speaketh, and 
it is done. Fear not, only believe ; for even the just God 
justifieth all that believe in Jesus.' 

II. 1. These things considered, it will be easy to show, as 
I proposed to do in the second place, the folly of trusting in 
the ' righteousness which is of the law,' and the wisdom of 
submitting to the ' righteousness which is of faith.' 

The folly of those who still trust in the ' righteousness which 
is of the law,' the terms of which are, ' Do this, and live,' may 
abundantly appear from hence they set out wrong ; their 
very first step is a fundamental mistake : for, before they can 
ever think of claiming any blessing on the terms of this covenant, 
they must suppose themselves to be in his state with whom 
this covenant was made. But how vain a supposition this is ; 
since it was made with Adam in a state of innocence ! How 
weak, therefore, must that whole building be, which stands on 
such a foundation ! And how foolish are they who thus build 
on the sand ; who seem never to have considered, that the 
covenant of works was not given to man when he was ' dead 
in trespasses and sins,' but when he was alive to God, when he 
knew no sin, but was holy as God is holy , who forget, that it 
was never designed for the recovery of the favour and life of 
God once lost, but only for the continuance and increase thereof, 
till it should be complete in life everlasting. 

140 Sermon VI 

2. Neither do they consider, who are thus seeking to establish 
their ' own righteousness, which is of the law,' what manner 
of obedience or righteousness that is which the law indispens- 
ably requires. It must be perfect and entire in every point, or 
it answers not the demand of the law. But which of you is able 
to perform such obedience ? or, consequently, to live thereby ? 
Who among you fulfils every jot and tittle even of the outward 
commandments of God ? doing nothing, great or small, which 
God forbids ? leaving nothing undone which He enjoins ? 
speaking no idle word ? having your conversation always ' meet 
to minister grace to the hearers ' ? and, ' whether you eat or 
drink, or whatever you do, doing all to the glory of God'? 
And how much less are you able to fulfil all the inward com- 
mandments of God , those which require, that every temper 
and motion of your soul should be holiness unto the Lord! 
Are you able to ' love God with all your heart ' ? to love all 
mankind as your own soul ? to ' pray without ceasing ? in every- 
thing to give thanks ' ? to have God always before you ? and 
to keep every affection, desire, and thought, in obedience to 
His law ? 

3. You should farther consider, that the righteousness of 
the law requires, not only the obeying every command of God, 
negative and positive, internal and external, but likewise in 
the perfect degree. In every instance whatever, the voice 
of the law is, ' Thou shalt serve the Lord thy God with all thy 
strength.' It allows no abatement of any kind it excuses 
no defect it condemns every coming short of the full measure 
of obedience, and immediately pronounces a curse on the 
offender : it regards only the invariable rules of justice, and 
saith, ' I know not to show mercy.' 

4. Who then can appear before such a Judge, who is ' extreme 
to mark what is done amiss ' ? How weak are they who 
desire to be tried at the bar where ' no flesh living can be 
justified ' ! — none of the offspring of Adam, For, suppose 
we did now keep every commandment with all our strength , 
yet one single breach, which ever was, utterly destroys our 
whole claim to life. If we have ever offended in any one point, 
this righteousness is at an end. For the law condemns all 

The Righteousness of Faith 


who do not perform uninterrupted as well as perfect obedience. 
So that, according to the sentence of this, for him who hath 
once sinned, in any degree, ' there remaineth only a fearful 
looking for of fiery indignation, which shall devour the adver- 
saries ' of God. 

5. Is it not then the very foolishness of folly, for fallen man 
to seek life by this righteousness ? for man, who was ' shapen 
in wickedness, and in sin did his mother conceive him ' ? 
man, who is, by nature, all ' earthly, sensual, devilish ' ; 
altogether ' corrupt and abominable ' , in whom, till he find 
grace, ' dwelleth no good thing ' ; nay, who cannot of himself 
think one good thought ; who is indeed all sin, a mere lump 
of ungodliness, and who commits sin in every breath he draws ; 
whose actual transgressions, in word and deed, are more in 
number than the hairs of his head ? What stupidity, what 
senselessness, must it be for such an unclean, guilty, helpless 
worm as this, to dream of seeking acceptance by his own 
righteousness, of living by ' the righteousness which is of the 

6. Now, whatsoever considerations prove the folly of 
trusting in the ' righteousness which is of the law,' prove 
equally the wisdom of submitting to the ' righteousness which 
is of God by faith/ This were easy to be shown with regard 
to each of the preceding considerations. But, to waive this, 
the wisdom of the first step hereto, the disclaiming our own 
righteousness, plainly appears from hence, that it is acting 
according to truth, to the real nature of things. For, what 

II. 5. This extreme view of the 
; total depravity of man, which Wes- 
ley so often insists upon in order to 
show how impossible it is for man 
f to save himself by any merit of his 
:own, needs to be corrected, as he him- 
self later did correct it, by a con- 
sideration of the work of prevenient 
grace. Thus in Sermon LXXXV, 
\ iii. 4, he says : ' There is no man that 
"is in a state of mere nature ; there 
'is no man, unless he has quenched 
jlthe Spirit, that is wholly void of 

the grace of God. No man living is 
entirely destitute of what is vulgarly 
called natural conscience. But this is 
not natural : it is more properly 
termed preventing grace. Every 
man has a greater or less measure 
of this, which waiteth not for the 
call of man.' So in his note on 
John i. 9 he says that this light is 
' natural conscience, pointing out at 
least the general lines of good and 

142 Sermon VI 

is it more, than to acknowledge with our heart as well as lips 
the true state wherein we are ? to acknowledge, that we bring 
with us into the world a corrupt, sinful nature ; more corrupt, 
indeed, than we can easily conceive, or find words to express ? 
that hereby we are prone to all that is evil, and averse from 
all that is good : that we are full of pride, self-will, unruly 
passions, foolish desires, vile and inordinate affections ; lovers 
of the world, lovers of pleasure more than lovers of God ? that 
our lives have been no better than our hearts, but many ways 
ungodly and unholy ; insomuch that our actual sins, both in 
word and deed, have been as the stars of heaven for multitude ; 
that, on all these accounts, we are displeasing to Him who is 
of purer eyes than to behold iniquity, and deserve nothing 
from Him but indignation and wrath and death, the due wages 
of sin ? that we cannot, by any of our righteousness (for 
indeed we have none at all), nor by any of our works (for they 
are as the tree upon which they grow), appease the wrath of 
God, or avert the punishment we have justly deserved ; yea, 
that, if left to ourselves, we shall only wax worse and worse, 
sink deeper and deeper into sin, offend God more and more, 
both with our evil works, and with the evil tempers of our 
carnal mind, till we fill up the measure of our iniquities, and 
bring upon ourselves swift destruction ? And is not this the 
very state wherein by nature we are ? To acknowledge this, 
then, both with our heart and lips, that is, to disclaim our 
own righteousness, ' the righteousness which is of the law,' 
is to act according to the real nature of things, and, conse- 
quently, is an instance of true wisdom. 

7. The wisdom of submitting to ' the righteousness of 
faith ' appears, farther, from this consideration, that it is the 
righteousness of God : I mean here, it is that method of recon- 
ciliation with God which hath been chosen and established by 
God Himself, not only as He is the God of wisdom, but as He 
is the sovereign Lord of heaven and earth, and of every creature 
which He hath made. Now, as it is not meet for man to 
say unto God, ' What doest Thou ? ' — as none, who is not 
utterly void of understanding, will contend with One that is 
mightier than he, with Him whose kingdom ruleth over all : 

The Righteousness of Faith 143 

30 it is true wisdom, it is a mark of sound understanding, to 
acquiesce in whatever He hath chosen ; to say in this, as in all 
things, ' It is the Lord : let Him do what seemeth Him good/ 

8. It may be farther considered, that it was of mere grace, 
of free love, of undeserved mercy, that God hath vouchsafed to 
sinful man any way of reconciliation with Himself ; that we 
were not cut away from His hand, and utterly blotted out 
of His remembrance. Therefore, whatever method He is 
pleased to appoint, of His tender mercy, of His unmerited 
goodness, whereby His enemies, who have so deeply revolted 
from Him, so long and obstinately rebelled against Him, may 
still find favour in His sight, it is doubtless our wisdom to 
accept it with all thankfulness. 

9. To mention but one consideration more. It is wisdom 

to aim at the best end by the best means. Now the best end 

which any creature can pursue is, happiness in God. And the 

best end a fallen creature can pursue is, the recovery of the 

favour and image of God. But the best, indeed the only 

means under heaven given to a man, whereby he may regain 

the favour of God, which is better than life itself, or the image 

Df God, which is the true life of the soul, is the submitting to 

the ' righteousness which is of faith,' the believing in the 

only-begotten Son of God. 

III. 1. Whosoever therefore thou art, who desirest to be 
forgiven and reconciled to the favour of God, do not say in 
thy heart, ' I must first do this , I must first conquer every 
sin ; break off every evil word and work, and do all good to 
all men ; or, I must first go to church, receive the Lord's 
supper, hear more sermons, and say more prayers.' Alas, 
my brother ! thou art clean gone out of the way. Thou art 
still ' ignorant of the righteousness of God,' and art ' seeking 
to establish thy own righteousness ' as the ground of thy 
reconciliation. Knowest thou not, that thou canst do nothing 
hut sin, till thou art reconciled to God ? Wherefore, then, 
dost thou say, ' I must do this and this first, and then I shall 

^ III. Nothing could be more effec- the excuses of the sinner. It gets 
'tive than this practical dealing with right to the point every time. 


Sermon VI 

believe ' ? Nay, but first believe ! Believe in the Lord Jesus 
Christ, the propitiation for thy sins. Let this good foundation 
first be laid, and then thou shalt do all things well. 

2. Neither say in thy heart, ' I cannot be accepted yet, 
because I am not good enough.' Who is good enough, who ever 
was, to merit acceptance at God's hands ? Was ever any 
child of Adam good enough for this ? or will any till the con- 
summation of all things ? And, as for thee, thou art not good 
at all : there dwelleth in thee no good thing. And thou never 
wilt be, till thou believe in Jesus. Rather thou wilt find thyself 
worse and worse. But is there any need of being worse, in 
order to be accepted ? Art thou not bad enough already ? 
Indeed thou art ; and that God knoweth. And thou thyself 
canst not deny it. Then delay not. All things are now ready. 
' Arise, and wash away thy sins.' The fountain is open* 
Now is the time to wash thee white in the blood of the Lamb. 
Now He shall ' purge ' thee as ' with hyssop,' and thou shalt 
' be clean ' : He shall ' wash ' thee, and thou shalt ' be whiter 
than snow.' 

3. Do not say, ' But I am not contrite enough : I am not 
sensible enough of my sins.' I know it. I would to God thou 
wert more sensible of them, more contrite a thousand fold than 
thou art. But do not stay for this. It may be, God will 
make thee so, not before thou believest, but by believing. It 
may be, thou wilt not weep much, till thou lovest much because 
thou hast had much forgiven. In the meantime look unto 
Jesus. Behold, how He loveth thee ! What could He have 
done more for thee which He hath not done ? 

O Lamb of God, was ever pain, 
Was ever love like Thine ? 

3. The quotation is the last two 
lines of the Hymn on the Crucifixion 
by Samuel Wesley, senr. It was 
written before the famous fire at the 
Epworth Rectory in 1709, and the 
MS. of it was found after the fire in 
the Rectory garden. John Wesley 
published it in his Charlestown 

Hymn-Book (1736-7): and after * 
wards in the Hymns and Sacred 
Poems (1739). It found a place in 
the Hymn-Book of 1780, and has 
been retained in all the subsequent 
editions. It begins 

Behold, the Saviour of mankind 
Nailed to the shameful tree 

The Righteousness of Faith 


Look steadily upon Him, till He looks on thee, and breaks thy 
hard heart. Then shall thy ' head * be ' waters ' and thy 
' eyes fountains of tears/ 

4. Nor yet do thou say, * I must do something more before 
I come to Christ/ I grant, supposing thy Lord should delay 
His coming, it were meet and right to wait for His appearing, 
in doing, so far as thou hast power, whatsoever He hath com- 
manded thee. But there is no necessity for making such a 
supposition. How knowest thou that He will delay ? Perhaps 
He will appear, as the dayspring from on high, before the 
morning light. O do not set Him a time ! Expect Him every 
hour. Now He is nigh ! even at the door ! 

5. And to what end wouldest thou wait for more sincerity 
before thy sins are blotted out ? To make thee more worthy 
of the grace of God ? Alas, thou art still ' establishing thy 
own righteousness/ He will have mercy, not because thou 
art worthy of it, but because His compassions fail not ; not 
because thou art righteous, but because Jesus Christ hath 
atoned for thy sins. 

Again : if there be anything good in sincerity, why dost 
thou expect it before thou hast faith ? — seeing faith itself is the 
only root of whatever is really good and holy. 

Above all, how long wilt thou forget, that whatsoever thou 
doest, or whatsoever thou hast, before thy sins are forgiven 
thee, it avails nothing with God toward the procuring of thy 
forgiveness ! yea, and that it must all be cast behind thy back, 

5. Wesley did not long maintain 
the implication of the second clause 
of this section, viz. that there can 
be no sincerity worth anything ex- 
cept as the result of faith. The 
question of sincerity is largely dis- 
cussed in the Minutes of 1746, May 13. 
J[onathan] R[eeves] thought that he 
was sincere ' in some measure ' 
before his conversion. Sincerity is 
then defined as " willingness to know 
and do the whole will of God ' ; 
and it is laid down that God has so 
much regard to the sincerity of an 
unbeliever, ' that, if he persevere 

I — 10 

therein, God will infallibly give him 
faith.' It is said to be ' one condi- 
tion of our acceptance,' therefore 
evidently it must precede the act of 
faith which brings salvation. Simi- 
larly in Sermon IX, iv. 1 it is said : 
' A man may be sincere in any of 
these states ' (to wit, the natural, 
the legal, and the evangelical) ; ' for 
undoubtedly there may be sincere 
heathens, as well as sincere Jews, or 
Christians.' Still, the point remains 
that a man is not saved because 
of his sincerity, but because of his 

146 Sermon VI 

trampled under foot, made no account of, or thou wilt ne 
find favour in God's sight ; because, until then, thou canst 
ask it as a mere sinner, guilty, lost, undone, having nothing 
plead, nothing to offer to God, but only the merits of His v> 
beloved Son, ' who loved thee, and gave Himself for thee ' \ .< 
6. To conclude. Whosoever thou art, O man, who 1 
the sentence of death in thyself, who feelest thyself a c 
demned sinner, and hast the wrath of God abiding on tk 
unto thee saith the Lord, not, ' Do this ' — perfectly obey 
my commands — ' and live ' , but, ' Believe in the Lord Je 
Christ, and thou shalt be saved.' ' The word of faith is n 
unto thee ' : now, at this instant, in the present moment, 5 
in thy present state, sinner as thou art, just as thou art, beli 
the gospel , and ' I will be merciful unto thy unrighteousm 
and thy iniquities will I remember no more.' 


The structure of this sermon is peculiar. The first part ofjit is an 
exposition of Rom. xiv. 17, ' The kingdom of God is not meat and 
drink,' &c. ; the second is an application based on the second clause 
of Mark i. 15, ' Repent ye, and believe the gospel.' On Sunday, 
June 6, 1742, Wesley was at Epworth, and offered his services to 
Mr. Romley the curate, ' but he did not care to accept of my assist- 
ance. The church was exceeding full in the afternoon, a rumour 
being spread that I was to preach. But the sermon on Quench 
not the Spirit was not suitable to the expectation of many of the 
hearers. Mr. Romley told them that one of the most dangerous 
ways of quenching the Spirit was by enthusiasm ; and enlarged on 
the character of an enthusiast in a very florid and oratorical manner. 
After sermon John Taylor stood in the churchyard, and gave notice, 
as the people were coming out, " Mr. Wesley, not being permitted to 
preach in the church, designs to preach here at six o'clock." Accord- 
ingly at six I came, and found such a congregation as I believe 
Epworth never saw before. I stood near the east end of the church, 
upon my father's tombstone, and cried, "The kingdom of heaven is 
not meat and drink ; but righteousness, and peace, and joy in the Holy 
Ghost." ' He remained eight days at Epworth, preaching every day 
from his father's tombstone, his texts being, on Monday, Eph. ii. 8 — 
the Oxford Sermon No. I ; on Tuesday Rom. iv. 5 (Sermon V) ; on 
Wednesday Luke xviiuio ; on Thursday Rom. viii. 15 (Sermon IX) ; 
on Friday Ezek. xxxvii. 1 seq. ; on Saturday Rom. x. 5 (Sermon VI), 
and on Sunday Matt. v. 1 (Sermon XVI). In a letter to Mr. John 
Smith, dated March 25, 1747, he says, ' I am well assured I did far 
more good by preaching three days on my father's tomb than I did 
by preaching three years in his pulpit.' The Rev. John Whitelamb, 
who was for a time Samuel Wesley's curate at Epworth, and married 
poor deformed Mary (Molly) Wesley in 1734, but lost her in November 
of the same year, came over from Wroot, where he was still rector, 
though his grief at the death of his wife and her baby had driven him 
into unbelief, and heard John preach on the Tuesday. He wrote on 
the Friday to Wesley : ' I saw you at Epworth on Tuesday evening. 
Your wav of thinkinff is so extraordinarv that vour presence creates 

148 Sermon VII 

an awe, as though you were an inhabitant of another world. I 

cannot refrain from tears when I reflect, this is the man who at Oxford 
was more than a father to me , this is he whom I have heard expound, 
or dispute publicly, or preach at St. Mary's, with such applause ; and 
— oh, that I should ever add — whom I have lately heard preach at 
Ep worth, on his father's tombstone ! ' 

There is little doubt that this sermon, or at any rate the first part 
of it, was the first of this series of ' tombstone ' sermons. It was a 
favourite of Wesley's, and is often mentioned in the Journal during 
this and the following years ; and also in the sermon list at the end 
of the Standard Edition of the Journal. It is quite different from 
the one on the same text, No. XLVII, on The Repentance of 
Believers, which was written in April 1767. 

To the modern reader it seems strange that a sermon on The 
Kingdom of God should make no reference at all to the social recon- 
struction demanded by Christianity ; but Wesley was right in think- 
ing that the only way to social salvation is through the salvation of 
individual men and women. The kingdom in the heart must come 
before the kingdom in society can be realized. Schemes for social 
reform will never work until the men who constitute society are 
themselves saved. 

The kingdom of God is at hand : repent ye, and believe the gospel. — 

Mark i. 15. 

These words naturally lead us to consider, first, the nature 
of true religion, here termed by our Lord ' the kingdom of 
God,' which, saith He, ' is at hand ' ; and, secondly, the way 
thereto, which He points out in those words, ' Repent ye, and 
believe the gospel.' 

1. 1. We are, first, to consider the nature of true religion, 
here termed by our Lord ' the kingdom of God.' The same 
expression the great Apostle uses in his Epistle to the Romans, 
where he likewise explains his Lord's words, saying, ' The 
kingdom of God is not meat and drink , but righteousness, 
and peace, and joy in the Holy Ghost ' (Rom. xiv. 17). 

2. ' The kingdom of God,' or true religion, ' is not meat 
and drink.' It is well known, that not only the unconverted 
Jews, but great numbers of those who had received the faith 
of Christ, were, notwithstanding, ' zealous of the law ' (Acts 

The Way to the Kingdom 149 

xxi. 20), even the ceremonial law of Moses. Whatsoever, 
therefore, they found written therein, either concerning meat 
and drink offerings, or the distinction between clean and 
unclean meats, they not only observed themselves, but vehem- 
ently pressed the same, even on those ' among the Gentiles ' 
(or Heathens) ' who were turned to God ' ; yea, to such a 
degree, that some of them taught, wheresoever they came 
among them, ' Except ye be circumcised, and keep the law * 
(the whole ritual law), ' ye cannot be saved ' (Acts xv. 1, 24). 

3. In opposition to these, the Apostle declares, both here 
and in many other places, that true religion does not consist in 
meat and drink, or in any ritual observances ; nor, indeed, in 
any outward thing whatever ; in anything exterior to the heart 
the whole substance thereof lying in ' righteousness, peace 
and joy in the Holy Ghost.' 

4. Not in any outward thing ; such as forms or ceremonies 

even of the most excellent kind. Supposing these to be evei 

so decent and significant, ever so expressive of inward things 

supposing them ever so helpful, not only to the vulgar, whos< 

thought reaches little farther than their sight , but even t< 

men of understanding, men of stronger capacities, as doubtles 

they may sometimes be , yea, supposing them, as in the cas 

of the Jews, to be appointed by God Himself ; yet even durinj 

the period of time wherein that appointment remains in force 

true religion does not principally consist therein ; nay, strictl; 

speaking, not at all. How much more must this hold con 

cerning such rites and forms as are only of human appointment 

The religion of Christ rises infinitely higher, and lies immense! 

deeper, than alL these. These are good in their place ; just s 

far as they are in fact subservient to true religion. And i 

were superstition to object against them, while they are applie 

only as occasional helps to human weakness. But let no ma 

carry them farther. Let no man dream that they have an 

I. Par. 4. This declaration as to his services. It was appropria 

the value of forms and ceremonies that it should be made at an open-a 

is Wesley's answer to those who, service. But he never undervalu< 

like poor Whitelamb, were scandal- decency and order in divine servic 

ized at his preaching in the open as long as it was not made a subsl 

air and using extemporary prayer in tute for true religion. 

150 Sermon VII 

intrinsic worth , or that religion cannot subsist without them. 
This were to make them an abomination to the Lord. 

5. The nature of religion is so far from consisting in these, 
in forms of worship, or rites and ceremonies, that it does not 
properly consist in any outward actions, of what kind soever. 
It is true, a man cannot have any religion who is guilty of 
vicious, immoral actions , or who does to others what he would 
not they should do unto him, if he were in the same circum- 
stances. And it is also true, that he can have no real religion 
who ' knows to do good, and doeth it not.' Yet may a man both 
abstain from outward evil, and do good, and still have no 
religion. Yea, two persons may do the same outward work , 
suppose feeding the hungry, or clothing the naked , and, in the 
meantime, one of these may be truly religious, and the other 
have no religion at all , for the one may act from the love of 
God, and the other from the love of praise. So manifest it is, 
that although true religion naturally leads to every good word 
and work, yet the real nature thereof lies deeper still, even in 
' the hidden man of the heart.' 

6. I say of the heart. For neither does religion consist in 
orthodoxy, or right opinions ; which, although they are not 
properly outward things, are not in the heart, but the under- 
standing. A man may be orthodox in every point ; he may 
not only espouse right opinions, but zealously defend them 
against all opposers , he may think justly concerning the in- 
carnation of our Lord, concerning the ever-blessed Trinity, 
and every other doctrine contained in the oracles of God , he 
may assent to all the three creeds — that called the Apostles', 
the Nicene, and the Athanasian , and yet it is possible he may 
have no religion at all, no more than a Jew, Turk, or Pagan. 
He may be almost as orthodox — as the devil (though indeed 
not altogether ; for every man errs in something , whereas 

6. This distinction between the intellect, emotion, and will. A re- 
heart and the understanding is not ligion which is all feeling is ai imper- 
scriptural. As ha^ been already feet as a religion of pure intellect, 
pointed out, the word translated True religion implies intellectual 
' heart ' in the New Testament does conviction, emotional motive, and 
not mean the emotions only, but ethical determination, and is a func- 
includes the whole psychical nature , tion of the whole man. 

The Way to the Kingdom 


we cannot well conceive him to hold any erroneous opinion), 
and may, all the while, be as great a stranger as he to the 
religion of the heart. 

7. This alone is religion, truly so called : this alone is in 
the sight of God of great price. The Apostle sums it all up 
in three particulars, ' righteousness, and peace, and joy in the 
Holy Ghost.' And, first, righteousness. We cannot be at a 
loss concerning this, if we remember the words of our Lord, 
describing the two grand branches thereof, on which ' hang 
all the Law and the Prophets ' : ' Thou shalt love the Lord 
thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy mind, and with 
all thy soul, and with all thy strength : this is the first and great 
commandment ' (Mark xii. 30) , the first and great branch of 
Christian righteousness. Thou shalt delight thyself in the 
Lord thy God ; thou shalt seek and find all happiness in Him. 
He shall be ' thy shield, and thy exceeding great reward/ in 
time and in eternity. All thy bones shall say, ' Whom have 
I in heaven but Thee ? And there is none upon earth that I 
desire beside Thee.' Thou shalt hear and fulfil His word, who 
saith, ' My son, give me thy heart.' And, having given Him 
thy heart, thy inmost soul, to reign there without a rival, thou 
mayest well cry out, in the fullness of thy heart, ' I will love 
Thee, O Lord, my strength. The Lord is my strong rock, and 

7. That ' love is the fulfilling of 
the law ' is incontestable ; but love 
is not the same thing as righteous- 
ness. Love is the root, righteousness 
is the fruit. In the religious writings 
of the eighteenth century, and in 
some of the periodicals, such as 
the Spectator, and particularly the 
Rambler, there is abundance of good 
ethical teaching ; but little or no- 
thing is said about the religious 
motive, the love to God and man, 
which alone makes morality in the 
fullest sense possible. Therefore 
Wesley laid all the stress of his 
teaching on the emotional motive 
for morality. In the Plain Account 
of Christian Perfection, entire sancti- 

fication is defined as perfect love. 
' A Methodist is one who loves the 
Lord his God with all his heart 
and, loving God, he loves his neigh- 
bour as himself.' This was most 
necessary and salutary teaching ; 
but there is a danger, as experience 
has sadly shown, that it may result 
in the under-valuing, or even the 
neglect, of practical ethics. This 
Wesley guarded against in the fol- 
lowing paragraph. It has been too 
common to find men who made the 
loudest and most exultant profes- 
sion of entire sanctification dishonest 
in business or lax in their private 
life. It is the general experience of 
missionaries to the less civilized races, 


Sermon VII 

my defence , my Saviour, my God, and my might, in whom I 
will trust , my buckler, the horn also of my salvation, and my 

8. And the second commandment is like unto this, the 
second great branch of Christian righteousness is closely and 
inseparably connected therewith , even, ' Thou shalt love thy 
neighbour as thyself.' Thou shalt love — thou shalt embrace 
with the most tender good-will, the most earnest and cordial 
affection, the most inflamed desires of preventing or removing 
all evil, and of procuring for him every possible good. Thy 
neighbour — that is, not only thy friend, thy kinsman, or thy 
acquaintance , not only the virtuous, the friendly, him that 
loves thee, that prevents or returns thy kindness , but every 
child of man, every human creature, every soul which God 
hath made ; not excepting him whom thou never hast seen in 
the flesh, whom thou knowest not, either by face or name ; 
not excepting him whom thou knowest to be evil and un- 
thankful, him that still despitefully uses and persecutes thee : 
him thou shalt love as thyself ; with the same invariable thirst 
after his happiness in every kind , the same unwearied care 
to screen him from whatever might grieve or hurt either his 
soul or body. 

9. Now is not this love ' the fulfilling of the law ' ? the sum 

like the Fijians or the Australian 
aborigines, that their converts very 
quickly attain to a remarkable degree 
of religious emotion, without any 
commensurate development of the 
ethical sense. A negro may give a 
most rapturous address in a love- 
feast, with tears of sincere joy run- 
ning down his face, and then go 
away and rob a hen-roost without 
any sense of incongruity. One of 
the most unscrupulous business men 
I ever knew could pray like a seraph 
and preach like a prophet ; and I 
do not think that he was a hypocrite 
either ; only he kept his religious 
emotion and his business practice in 
water-tight compartments. Wesley's 

attitude was most natural and in- 
deed necessary in an age when any 
expression of religious experience 
was denounced as a manifestation of 
enthusiasm and presumption ; but 
in our day it is very needful to 
emphasize the ethical side of re- 
ligion, and to insist that no rapturous 
realization of the love of God can 
excuse a man from the duty of 
carrying on his business on the prin- 
ciples of the Sermon on the Mount, 
and paying twenty shillings in the 
pound ; and that this is what St. 
Paul means when he says that the 
kingdom of God is righteousness. 
8. ' Prevents,' i.e. anticipates. 

The Way to the Kingdom 153 

of all Christian righteousness ? of all inward righteousness, — 
for it necessarily implies ' bowels of mercies, humbleness of 
mind ' (seeing ' love is not puffed up '), ' gentleness, meekness, 
longsuffering ' (for love ' is not provoked/ but ' belie veth, 
hopeth, endureth all things ') : and of all outward righteous- 
ness, — for ' love worketh no evil to his neighbour,' either by 
word or deed. It cannot willingly hurt or grieve any one. 
And it is zealous of good works. Every lover of mankind, as 
he hath opportunity, ' doeth good unto all men/ being (without 
partiality, and without hypocrisy) ' full of mercy and good 

10. But true religion, or a heart right toward God and 
man, implies happiness as well as holiness. For it is not only 
' righteousness/ but also ' peace and joy in the Holy Ghost.' 
What peace ? ' The peace of God,' which God only can give, 
and the world cannot take away , the peace which ' passeth all 
understanding,' all barely rational conception , being a super- 
natural sensation, a divine taste, of ' the powers of the world to 
come ' ; such as the natural man knoweth not, how wise soever 
in the things of this world , nor, indeed, can he know it, in his 
present state, ' because it is spiritually discerned.' It is a peace 
that banishes all doubt, all painful uncertainty ftS e" Spirit of 

* "God bearmgwitness with the spirrLoia Christian, that he is ' a 

^ISrnRTof God/ And it banishes fear, all such fear as hath 

"Torment : the fear of the wrath of God , the fear of hell ; the 

fear of the devil , and, in particular, the fear of death : he that 

hath the peace of God, desiring, if it were the will of God, ' to 

depart, and to be with Christ.' 

11. With this peace of God, wherever it is fixed in the soul, 
there is also ' joy in the Holy Ghost ' , joy wrought in the heart 
by the Holy Ghost, by the ever-blessed Spirit of God. He it is 
that worketh in us that calm, humble rejoicing in God, through 
Christ Jesus, ' by whom we have now received the atonement,' 
xaraWaynv, the reconciliation with God , and that enables us 

11. In rendering KaraWay^v re- ' happy ' for ' blessed ' in the quota- 
conciliation, Wesley, as so often, tion from Psa. xxxii. i . The Hebrew 
anticipates the Revised Version. He word, as in Psa. i. I, is a plural 
is equally accurate in substituting noun: ' Oh the joys of the man,' &c. 

154 Sermon VII 

boldly to confirm the truth of the royal Psalmist's declaration 
' Blessed is the man ' (or rather, happy) ' whose unrighteousness 
is forgiven, and whose sin is covered.' He it is that inspires 
the Christian soul with that even, solid joy, which arises from 
the testimony of the Spirit that he is a child of God , and that 
gives him to ' rejoice with joy unspeakable, in hope of the glory 
of God ' , hope both of the glorious image of God, which is in 
part, and shall be fully, ' revealed in him ' , and of that crown 
of glory which fadeth not away, reserved in heaven for him. 

12. This holiness and happiness, joined in one, are some- 
times styled, in the inspired writings, ' the kingdom of God ' 
(as by our Lord in the text), and sometimes, * the kingdom of 
heaven.' It is termed, ' the kingdom of God,' because it is 
the immediate fruit of God's reigning in the soul. So soon as 
ever He takes unto Himself His mighty power, and sets up His 
throne in our hearts, they are instantly filled with this ' right- 
eousness, and peace, and joy in the Holy Ghost.' It is called 
' the kingdom of heaven,' because it is (in a degree) heaven 
opened in the soul. For whosoever they are that experience 
this, they can aver before angels and men, 

Everlasting life is won, 
Glory is on earth begun ; 

according to the constant tenor of Scripture, which everywhere 
bears record, God ' hath given unto us eternal life, and this life 
is in His Son. He that hath the Son ' (reigning in his heart) 
' hath life,' even life everlasting (i John v. n, 12). For ' this 
is life eternal, to know Thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ, 
whom Thou hast sent ' (John xvii. 3). And they to whom this 

12. The first quotation is the last Psalms and Hymns (1786). The 

two lines of verse 6 of Charles whole verse runs : 
Wesley's Hymn after the Sacrament, 

beginning ' Sons of God, triumphant Grace our every thought controls, 

rise,' first published in the Hymns Heaven is opened in our souls, 

, ~ , t, . . .. , Everlasting life is won, 

and Sacred Poems (i 739), pt. u. (vol. i. Glory is on earth begun, 
p. 170, in Osborn's Poetical Works 

of J. and C. Wesley). The first four The lines in the second quotation 

verses were used by Toplady in his are the conclusion of the Paraphrase 

The Way to the Kingdom 


is given may confidently address God, though they were in the 
midst of a fiery furnace, — 

Thee, Lord, safe-shielded by Thy power, 
Thee, Son of God, Jehovah, we adore ; 
In form of man descending to appear : 

To Thee be ceaseless hallelujahs given, 
Praise, as in heaven Thy throne, we offer here ; 

For where Thy presence is display' d, is heaven. 

13. And this ' kingdom of God/ or of heaven, ' is at hand.' 
As these words were originally spoken, they implied that ' the 
time ' was then fulfilled, God being ' made manifest in the flesh,' 
when He would set up His kingdom among men, and reign in 
the hearts of His people. And is not the time now fulfilled ? 
For, ' Lo,' (saith He), ' I am with you always,' you who preach 
remission of sins in My name, ' even unto the end of the world ' 
(Matt, xxviii. 20). Wheresoever, therefore, the gospel of 
Christ is preached, this His ' kingdom is nigh at hand.' It is 
not far from every one of you. Ye may this hour enter there- 
into, if so be ye hearken to His voice, ' Repent ye, and believe 
the gospel.' 

II. 1. This is the way , walk ye in it. And, first, ' repent ' ; 
that is, know yourselves. This is the first repentance, previous 
to _f aith ; even conviction^ or self-knowledge^_ Awake, then; 
thou that sleepest. Know thyself to be a sinner, and what 
manner of sinner thou art. Know that corruption of thy in- 
most nature, whereby thou art very far gone from original 
righteousness, whereby ' the flesh lusteth ' always ' contrary 
to the Spirit,' through that ' carnal mind ' which ' is enmity 

of the Song of the Three Children 
(generally known as the Benedicite) 
by the Rev. Mark Le-Pla, vicar of 
Finchingfield, in Essex. It was 
written as a thanksgiving to God 
after a recovery from sickness. In 
the Journal, March 3, 1740, Wesley 
quotes two other lines from the same 
poem : 

He deigns his influence to diffuse, 
Secret, refreshing as the silent dews; 

and the last line of the present pas- 
sage is quoted in the Journal, 
February 18, 1766. The whole poem 
was published in Moral and Sacred 
Poems (1744), vol. ii. p. 107. The 
first line here is short of two syllables, 
indicated by a dash in the 1771 edi- 
tion of the sermon. The missing 
word is ' therefore ' : 

Thee, therefore, Lord, safe-shielded by Thy 

156 Sermon VII 

against God,' which ' is not subject to the law of God, neither 
indeed can be.' Know that thou art corrupted in every power, 
in every faculty of thy soul , that thou art totally corrupted 
in every one of these, all the foundations being out of course. 
The eyes of thine understanding are darkened, so that they 
cannot discern God, or the things of God. The clouds of ignor- 
ance and error rest upon thee, and cover thee with the shadow 
of death. Thou knowest nothing yet as thou oughtest to know, 
neither God, nor the world, nor thyself. Thy will is no longer 
the will of God, but is utterly perverse and distorted, averse 
from all good, from all which God loves, and prone to all evil, 
to every abomination which God hateth. Thy affections are 
alienated from God, and scattered abroad over all the earth. 
All thy passions, both thy desires and aversions, thy joys and 
sorrows, thy hopes and fears, are out of frame, are either undue 
in their degree, or placed on undue objects. So that there is 
no soundness in thy soul ; but ' from the crown of the head, to 
the sole of the foot ' (to use the strong expression of the prophet), 
there are only ' wounds, and bruises, and putrefying sores.' 

2. Such is the inbred corruption of thy heart, of thy very 
inmost nature. And what manner of branches canst thou expect 
to grow from such an evil root ? Hence springs unbelief ; 
ever departing from the living God , saying, ' Who is the Lord, 
that I should serve Him ? Tush ! Thou God carest not for it.' 
Hence independence , affecting to be like the Most High. 
Hence pride, in all its forms , teaching thee to say, ' I am rich, 
and increased in goods, and have need of nothing/ From this 
evil fountain flow forth the bitter streams of vanity, thirst of 
praise, ambition, covetousness, the lust of the flesh, the lust of 
the eye, and the pride of life. From this arise anger, hatred, 
malice, revenge, envy, jealousy, evil surmisings : from this, all 
the foolish and hurtful lusts that now ' pierce thee through 
with many sorrows/ and, if not timely prevented, will at length 
drown thy soul in everlasting perdition. 

3. And what fruits can grow on such branches as these? 
Only such as are bitter and evil continually. Of pride cometh 
contention, vain boasting, seeking and receiving praise of men, 
and so robbing God of that glory which He cannot give unto 

The Way to the Kingdom 157 

another. Of the lust of the flesh come gluttony or drunken- 
ness, luxury or sensuality, fornication, uncleanness ; variously 
defiling that body which was designed for a temple of the 
Holy Ghost : of unbelief, every evil word and work. But the 
time would fail, shouldest thou reckon up all , all the idle 
words thou hast spoken, provoking the Most High, grieving 
the Holy One of Israel j all the evil works thou hast done, 
either wholly evil in themselves, or, at least, not done to the 
glory of God. For thy actual sins are more than thou art 
able to express, more than the hairs of thy head. Who can 
number the sands of the sea, or the drops of rain, or thy 
iniquities ? 

4. And knowest thou not that ' the wages of sin is death ' ? 
— death, not only temporal, but eternal. ' The soul that 
sinneth, it shall die ' , for the mouth of the Lord hath spoken 
it. It shall die the second death. This is the sentence, to 
' be punished ' with never-ending death, ' with everlasting 
destruction from the presence of the Lord, and from the glory 
of His power.' Knowest thou not that every sinner evoxos 
ia-TL 777 yeevvrj rod irvpos, not properly ' is in danger of 
hell-fire ' ; that expression is far too weak ; but rather ' is 
under the sentence of hell-fire ' , doomed already, just dragging 
to execution. Thou art guilty of everlasting death. It is 
the just reward of thy inward and outward wickedness. It 
is just that the sentence should now take place. Dost thou 
see, dost thou feel this ? Art thou thoroughly convinced 
that thou deservest God's wrath, and everlasting damnation ? 
Would God do thee no wrong, if He now commanded the 
earth to open, and swallow thee up ? — if thou wert now to 
go down quick into the pit, into the fire that never shall be 
quenched ? If God hath given thee truly to repent, thou hast 
a deep sense that these things are so , and that it is of His 
mere mercy thou art not consumed, swept away from the face 
of the earth. 

II. 4. The Greek phrase quoted Gehenna of fire, but he is not yet 

means ' liable to,' not ' under sen- sentenced. Thus Xenophon speaks 

tence of ' ; the sinner has committed of a man as ' liable to an indictment.' 
a crime, the penalty of which is the 

158 Sermon VII 

5. And what wilt thou do to appease the wrath of God, to 
atone for all thy sins, and to escape the punishment thou hast 
so justly deserved ? Alas, thou canst do nothing ; nothing 
that will in any wise make amends to God for one evil work, 
or word, or thought. If thou couldest now do all things well, 
if from this very hour till thy soul should return to God thou 
couldest perform perfect, uninterrupted obedience, even this 
would not atone for what is past. The not increasing thy 
debt would not discharge it. It would still remain as great 
as ever. Yea, the present and future obedience of all the men 
upon earth, and all the angels in heaven, would never make 
satisfaction to the justice of God for one single sin. How 
vain, then, was the thought of atoning for thy own sins, by 
anything thou couldest do ! It costeth far more to redeem 
one soul, than all mankind is able to pay. So that were there 
no other help for a guilty sinner, without doubt he must have 
perished everlastingly. 

6. But suppose perfect obedience, for the time to come, 
could atone for the sins that are past, this would profit thee 
nothing ; for thou art not able to perform it ; no, not in any 
one point. Begin now : make the trial. Shake off that out- 
ward sin that so easily besetteth thee. Thou canst not. How 
then wilt thou change thy life from all evil to all good? 
Indeed, it is impossible to be done, unless first thy heart be 
changed. For, so long as the tree remains evil, it cannot 
bring forth good fruit. But art thou able to change thy own 
heart, from all sin to all holiness ? to quicken a soul that is 
dead in sin — dead to God, and alive only to the world ? No 
more than thou art able to quicken a dead body, to raise to 
life him that lieth in the grave. Yea, thou art not able to 
quicken thy soul in any degree, no more than to give any 
degree of life to the dead body. Thou canst do nothing, more 
or less, in this matter , thou art utterly without strength. To 
be deeply sensible of this, how helpless thou art, as well as 
how guilty and how sinful, — this is that ' repentance not to be 
repented of,' which is the forerunner of the kingdom of God. 

7. If to this lively conviction of thy inward and outward 
sins, of thy utter guiltiness and helplessness, there be added 

The Way to the Kingdom 159 

*"* fl hl— l* * " ■ ■■ ' «l ■ ■■!■!■ «l II »l l »l | II ■ I — 1 — 1. I ^M.|.-M ■ II « ■ I II ■■ ■■ .1 I .111. Il-I... ■ ■■ ■! 1 ■ iiimi ! ■■ I I 

suitable affections, — sorrow of heart, for having despised thy 
own mercies ; remorse, and self-condemnation, having thy 
mouth stopped >; shame to lift up thine eyes to heaven , fear 
of the wrath of God abiding on thee, of His curse hanging over 
thy head, and of the fiery indignation ready to devour those 
who forget God, and obey not our Lord Jesus Christ , earnest 
desire to escape from that indignation, to cease from evil, and 
learn to do well, — then I say unto thee, in the name of the 
Lord, ' Thou art not far from the kingdom of God.' One 
step more, and thou shalt enter in. Thou dost ' repent.' 
Now, ' believe the gospel.' 

8. The gospel (that is, good tidings, good news for guilty, 
helpless sinners), in the largest sense of the word, means, thei 
whole revelation made to men by Jesus Christ ; and some- j 
times the whole account of what our Lord did and suffered 
while He tabernacled among men. The substance of all is, 

' Jesus Christ came into the world to save sinners ' ; or, ' God 
so loved the world, that He gave His only-begotten Son, to the 
end we might not perish, but have everlasting life ' ; or, ' He 
was bruised for our transgressions, He was wounded for our 
iniquities ; the chastisement of our peace was upon Him ; and 
with His stripes we are healed.' 

9. Believe this, and the kingdom of God is thine. By faith 
thou attainest the promise. * He pardoneth and absolveth all 
that truly repent, and unfeignedly believe His holy gospel.' 
As soon as ever God hath spoken to thy heart, ' Be of good 
cheer, thy sins are forgiven thee,' His kingdom comes : thou 
hast ' righteousness, and peace, and joy in the Holy Ghost.' 

10. Only beware thou do not deceive thy own soul, with 
regard to the nature of this faith. It is not, as some have 
fondly conceived, a bare assent to the truth of the Bible, of 

8. ' Tabernacled ' is the literal 10. 'As some have fondly con- 
translation of the Greek word used ceived.' Wesley is thinking especi- 
by St. John, and is given as such in ally of the Sandemanians or Glasites, 
the margin of the R.V. concerning whose teaching see in- 

9- ' He pardoneth,' &c, is from troduction to Sermon L (below, vol. 

the Absolution in the Order for ii. p. 442). 
Morning Service. 

160 Sermon VII 

the articles of our Creed, or of all that is contained in the Old 
and New Testament. The devils believe this, as well as I or 
thou ! And yet they are devils still. But it is, over and 
above this, a sure trust in the mercy of God, through Christ 
Jesus. It is a confidence in a pardoning God. It is a divine 
evidence or conviction that ' God was in Christ, reconciling 
the world to Himself, not imputing to them their' former 
' trespasses ' , and in particular, that the Son of God hath 
loved me, and given Himself for me , and that I, even I, am 
now reconciled to God by the blood of the cross. 

ii. Dost thou thus believe ? Then the peace of God is in 
thy heart, and sorrow and sighing flee away. Thou art no 
longer in doubt of the love of God , it is clear as the noon-day 
sun. Thou criest out, ' My song shall be always of the loving- 
kindness of the Lord with my mouth will I ever be telling of 
Thy truth, from one generation to another.' Thou art no 
longer afraid of hell, or death, or him that had once the power 
of death, the devil , no, nor painfully afraid of God Himself ; 
only thou hast a tender, filial fear of offending Him. Dost thou 
believe ? Then thy ' soul doth magnify the Lord,' and thy 
' spirit rejoiceth in God thy Saviour.' Thou rejoicest in that 
thou hast ' redemption through His blood, even the forgiveness 
of sins.' Thou rejoicest in that ' Spirit of adoption,' which 
crieth in thy heart, ' Abba, Father ! ' Thou rejoicest in a 
' hope full of immortality ' , in reaching forth unto the ' mark 
for the prize of thy high calling ' ; in an earnest expectation 
of all the good things which God hath prepared for them that 
love Him. 

12. Dost thou now believe ? Then ' the love of God is ' 
now ' shed abroad in thy heart.' Thou lovest Him, because 
He first loved us. And, because thou lovest God, thou lovest 
thy brother also. And being filled with ' love, peace, joy/ 
thou art also filled with ' long-suffering, gentleness, fidelity, 
goodness, meekness, temperance,' and all the other fruits of 
the same Spirit , in a word, with whatever dispositions are 
holy, are heavenly, or divine. For while thou ' beholdest 
with open,' uncovered ' face ' (the veil now being taken away) 
' the glory of the Lord,' His glorious love, and the glorious 

The Way to the Kingdom 


image wherein thou wast created, thou art ' changed into the 
same image from glory to glory, by the Spirit of the Lord.' 

13. This repentance, this faith, this peace, joy, love ; this 
change from glory to glory, is what the wisdom of the world 
has voted to be madness, mere enthusiasm, utter distraction. 
But thou, O man of God, regard them not ; be thou moved] 
by none of these things. Thou knowest in whom thou^ hast 
beli eved. See that no man takelhy"crown. Whereunto thou 
hast already attained, hold fast, and follow, till thou attain all 
the great and precious promises. And thou who hast not yet 
known Him, let not vain men make thee ashamed of the 
gospel of Christ. Be thou in nothing terrified by those who 
speak evil of the things which they know not. God will soon 
turn thy heaviness into joy. Oh, let not thy hands hang down ! 
Yet a little longer, and He will take away thy fears, and give 
thee the spirit of a sound mind. He is nigh ' that justifieth : 
who is he that condemneth ? It is Christ that died, yea 
rather, that rose again, who is even now at the right hand of 
God, making intercession ' for thee. 

Now cast thyself on the Lamb of God, with all thy sins, 
how many soever they be , and ' an entrance shall ' now 
' be ministered unto thee into the kingdom of our Lord 
and Saviour Jesus Christ ' ! 

13. ' Mere enthusiasm.' The 
Weekly Advertiser for June 13, 1741, 
suggests the erection of a Methodist 
hall on Blackheath. The main hall 
is to have as a decoration a piece of 
statuary in which the, main figure is 
to be Enthusiasm, sitting in an easy- 
chair, and just delivered of two 
beauteous babes, Superstition and 
Infidelity. The Bishop of Lichfield, 
in a charge published in 1745, says, 
' All pretensions to the Spirit are 
vain and insignificant, as they are 
claimed by modern enthusiasts.' In 
a tract of 1740 the Methodists are 
called ' crack - brained enthusiasts 
and profane hypocrites.' Dr. Joseph 
Trapp in the same year calls them 

I — II 

' a new sect of enthusiasts, or hypo- 
crites, or both.' Wesley in Farther 
Appeal, Part II (1745), says: 'To 
object enthusiasm to any person or 
doctrine is but a decent method of 
begging the question. But 

what does he mean by enthusiasm ? 
Perhaps nothing at all : few have 
any distinct idea of its meaning. .\ 
I believe thinking men mean by \ 
enthusiasm a sort of religious mad 
ness ; a false imagination of being 
inspired by God. And by an enthu- 
siast, one that fancies himself under 
the influence of the Holy Ghost, 
when, in fact, he is not. Let him^ 
prove me guilty of this who can.' 



In the Journal, June 25, 1745, Wesley says: ' We rode to St. Just. 
I preached at seven to the largest congregation I have seen since my 
coming. At the meeting of the earnest, loving society all our hearts 
were in a flame : and again at five in the morning, while I explained 
" There is no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus." ' On 
July 15 he read prayers and preached on this text at Laneast church. 
From the nature of its contents, this sermon was not suitable for 
general use ; it needed a congregation of believers, and there are few 
records of its being preached either in the Journal or the Sermon List. 
But no doubt the substance of it was part of the continuous exposi- 
tion of the Epistle to the Romans which was often given by Wesley 
to his societies. It shows a distinct advance on his views of the 
nature of sin and its continuance in believers suggested in some of 
the earlier sermons ; indeed, it is a sort of first sketch for Sermon XLVI 
on Sin in Believers. 

There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus, 
who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit. — Rom. viii. 1. 

i. By ' them which are in Christ Jesus,' St. Paul evidently 
means, those who truly believe in Him ; those who, ' being 
justified by faith, have peace with God through our Lord 

Par. 1. This paragraph shows that faith has two constructions: St. 

Wesley had not quite fully appre- John always speaks of saving faith 

ciated the force of the characteristic as Turretou* e£s Xpurrdv, believing 

Pauline phrase ' in Christ.' It is into Christ, i.e. believing so as to be 

true that he does put it clearly enough united vitally with Christ ; St. Paul, 

in I. 1 below ; but in his present when he is thinking of justification, 

thinking faith was so much concerned says Triare^eiv eirl Kpiory or M 

with justification, that he hardly Xpiarbv — i.e. believing upon Christ; 

realizes its equal importance as the but he also uses St. John's construc- 

means of entering into vital fellow- tion both in his Epistles and in his 

ship with Christ. In the N.T. the sermons reported in the Acts of the 

verb marei/civ in the sense of saving Apostles ; and his favourite phrase 


The First-fruits of the Spirit 


Jesus Christ.' They who thus believe do no longer ' walk 
after the flesh,' no longer follow the motions of corrupt nature, 
but ' after the Spirit ' , both their thoughts, words, and works 
are under the direction of the blessed Spirit of God. 

2. ' There is therefore now no condemnation to ' these. 
There is no condemnation to them from God , for He hath 
justified them ' freely by His grace through the redemption 
that is in Jesus.' He hath forgiven all their iniquities, and 
blotted out all their sins. And there is no condemnation to 
them from within , for they ' have received, not the spirit oi 
the world, but the Spirit which is of God ; that they might 
know the things which are freely given to them of God ' 
(1 Cor. ii. 12) , which Spirit ' beareth witness with their spirits, 
that they are the children of God.' And to this is added the 
testimony of their conscience, ' that in simplicity and godly 
sincerity, not with fleshly wisdom, but by the grace of God, 
they have had their conversation in the world ' (2 Cor. i. 12). 

3. But because this scripture has been so frequently mis- 
understood, and that in so dangerous a manner , because such 
multitudes of ' unlearned and unstable men ' (ol a^iadeU koI 
ao-TTJpLKTot, men untaught of God, and consequently unestab- 
lished in the truth which is after godliness) have wrested it to 
their own destruction ; I propose to show, as clearly as I can, 
first, who those are ' which are in Christ Jesus,' and ' walk 
not after the flesh, but after the Spirit ' , and, secondly, how 
' there is no condemnation to ' these. I shall conclude with 
some practical inferences. 

" in Christ ' implies this. Justifying 
faith rests upon Christ ; sanctifying 
faith enters into union with Him. 
Consequently, when here Paul speaks 
of ' them which are in Christ Jesus,' 
he does not mean primarily those 
who are justified by faith, but those 
who are made one with Christ. As 
the late Dr. J. H. Moulton says 
(Gram, of N.T. Greek, Proleg. 68) : 
' To repose one's trust upon God or 
Christ was well expressed by iriareijeiv 

M, the dative suggesting more oi 
the state, and the accusative more 
of the initial act of faith ; while eh 
recalls at once the bringing of the 
soul into that mystical union which 
Paul loved to express by iv Xpiary.' 
3. Both the adjectives in the 
Greek quoted are hapax legomena 
in the N.T. Their meaning is ' un- 
taught ' and ' unstable ' ; Wesley's 
addition " untaught of God ' is hardly 
in the text. 

164 Sermon VIII 

1. 1. First, I am to show, who those are that ' are in Christ 
Jesus/ And are they not those who believe in His name? 
those who are ' found in Him, not having their own righteous- 
ness, but the righteousness which is of God by faith ' ? These, 
' who have redemption through His blood,' are properly said 
to be in Him , for they dwell in Christ, and Christ in them. 
They are joined unto the Lord in one Spirit. They are ingrafted 
into Him, as branches into the vine. They are united, as 
members to their head, in a manner which words cannot 
express, nor could it before enter into their hearts to conceive. 

2. Now ' whosoever abideth in Him, sinneth not ' , ' walketh 
not after the flesh.' The flesh, in the usual language of St. 
Paul, signifies corrupt nature. In this sense he uses the word, 
writing to the Galatians, ' The works of the flesh are manifest' 
(Gal. v. 19) , and a little before, ' Walk in the Spirit, and ye 
shall not fulfil the lust ' (or desire) ' of the flesh ' (ver. 16). 
To prove which, namely, that those who ' walk by the Spirit ' 
do not ' fulfil the lusts of the flesh,' he immediately adds, 
' For the flesh lusteth against the Spirit, and the Spirit lusteth 
against the flesh (for these are contrary to each other) ; that 
ye may not do the things which ye would.' So the words are 

I. 2. The psychology of St. Paul and kills another dog ; but he does 

receives much light from the theory not commit sin : the act is neither 

of evolution. It may be expressed right nor wrong, but non-moral. A 

thus : — man does exactly the same thing, 

fulfilling the desire of the flesh and 

717™^+^™*™^'' the soul a § ainst the law of dut y- 

xjt Tj^ici_i_e--*inv r, Jt which forbids murder ; and he is a 

Man = Body + Soul + Spirit : Flesh = Body -f . „ . _ , , . , 

Soul. sinner. By his flesh man is akin to 

the lower animals and shares their 
The flesh, i.e. the body and (animal) instincts and desires ; by his spirit 
soul, was first developed ; then he is a partaker of the divine nature, 
when a certain point of develop- The flesh has the advantage of long 
ment had been reached, the spirit, tenure and established habit, and i3 
or moral, self-conscious, personal in constant conflict with the spirit, 
self was super-added. The flesh is which can only prevail by the rein- 
not ' corrupt,' but non-moral ; sin forcement which comes from union 
emerges as the result of the inevitable by faith with the Divine Spirit. See 
conflict between the deep-seated in- introduction to Sermon V. 
stincts and desires of the flesh and 'Desire 'is a better translation than 
the law of duty. A dog fights with lust, which has been narrowed down 

The First-fruits of the Spirit 


literally translated (Xva /ir) a av 6e\r)Te ravra TroLrjre), not, ' S( 
that ye cannot do the things that ye would ' , as if the flesl 
overcame the Spirit : a translation which hath not onl} 
nothing to do with the original text of the Apostle, but likewis< 
makes his whole argument nothing worth , yea, asserts jus 
the reverse of what he is proving. 

3. They who are of Christ, who abide in Him, ' have crucifiec 
the flesh with its affections and lusts.' They abstain fron 
all those works of the flesh ; from ' adultery and fornication ' 
from ' uncleanness and lasciviousness ' , from ' idolatry 
witchcraft, hatred, variance ' ; from ' emulations, wrath 
strife, sedition, heresies, envyings, murders, drunkenness 
revellings ' ; from every design, and word, and work, to whicl 
the corruption of nature leads. ^.Although they feel the roo 
of bitterness in themselves, yet are they endued with powe 
from on high to trample it continually under foot, so that i 
cannot ' spring up to_ trouble them ' ; insomuch that ever] 
fresh assault which they undergo only gives them fresh occasioi 
of praise, of crying out, ' Thanks be unto God, who giveth u 
the victory through Jesus Christ our Lord.' 

4. They now ' walk after the Spirit,' both in their heart: 
and lives. They are taught of Him to love God and theii 
neighbour, with a love which is as ' a well of water, springing 
up into everlasting life.' And by Him they are led into even 

in modern speech to one particular 
form of desire, The Greek word is 
quite general, and includes all the 
desires of the flesh .and of the mind. 
' That ye may not do,' &c. The 
old view, that tva always expresses 
purpose in the N.T. as in Attic 
Greek, has now been definitely dis- 
proved. It is sometimes used like 
our ' that,' to introduce a noun- 
sentence, and sometimes even of 
result, as in this passage. The mean- 
ing is not ' that ye may not do,' 
but ' so that ye do not the things 
which ye would.' The best com- 
ment on this passage is Rom. vii. 
19, ss. : ' For I do not do the good 

which I will ; but the evil which '. 
will not, that I practise.' This i: 
ascribed to ' the sin which dwelletl 
in me,' ' the law in the members 
or bodily structure ' — in other words 
the inherited strength of the anima 
instincts and passions. 

3. ' Root of bitterness.' This ap 
plication of Heb. xii. 15 is not justifi- 
able. It is quoted from Deut. xxix 
18, and the reference is to individuals 
who prove a root of bitterness in th< 
community by falling from thi 
grace of God. Wesley takes it t( 
mean the risings of fleshly desire: 
in the mind of the believer. See II. 1 

1 66 Sermon VIII 

holy desire, into every divine and heavenly temper, till every 
thought which arises in their heart is holiness unto the Lord. 

5. They who ' walk after the Spirit ' are also led by Him 
into all holiness of conversation. Their ' speech is always in 
grace, seasoned with salt ' , with the love and fear of God. 
' No corrupt communication comes out of their mouth , but 
only that which is good,' that which is ' to the use of edifying,' 
which is ' meet to minister grace to the hearers.' And herein 
likewise do they exercise themselves day and night, to do only 
the things which please God , in all their outward behaviour 
to follow Him ' who left us an example that we might tread in 
His steps ' ; in all their intercourse with their neighbour, to 
walk in justice, mercy, and truth , and ' whatsoever they do,' 
in every circumstance of life, to ' do all to the glory of God.' 

6. These are they who indeed ' walk after the Spirit.' 
Being filled with faith and with the Holy Ghost, they possess 
in their hearts, and show forth in their lives, in the whole 
course of their words and actions, the genuine fruits of the 
Spirit of God, namely, ' love, joy, peace, long-suffering, gentle- 
ness, goodness, fidelity, meekness, temperance,' and whatsoever 
else is lovely or praiseworthy. ' They adorn in all things 
the gospel of God our Saviour ' , and give full proof to all 
mankind, that they are indeed actuated by the same Spirit 
' which raised up Jesus from the dead.' 

II. 1. I proposed to show, in the second place, how ' there 
is no condemnation to them which are ' thus ' in Christ Jesus,' 
and thus ' walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit.' 

And, first, to believers in Christ, walking thus, ' there is 
no condemnation ' on account of their past sins. God con- 
demneth them not for any of these they are as though they 

5. ' Conversation ' in 1 Pet. i. 15 your mouth,' shows, kept wholesome 

means conduct, behaviour, not only by the grace of God. The notion 

speech ; and is so used by Wesley that the Apostle is thinking of the 

here, as the later part of the para- ' Attic salt ' of wit is quite foreign 

graph shows. to his train of thought. 

' Seasoned with salt ' — i.e., as the 6. Fidelity, not faith, is certainly 

parallel passage in Eph. iv. 29, ' Let the meaning of the Apostle in this 

no corrupt speech proceed out of passage. 

The First-fruits of the Spirit 


had never been , they are cast ' as a stone into the depth of 
the sea,' and He remembereth them no more. God, having 
' set forth His Son to be a propitiation ' for them ' through 
faith in His blood/ hath declared unto them ' His righteous- 
ness for the remission of the sins that are past.' He layeth 
therefore none of these to their charge ; their memorial is 
perished with them. 

2. And there is no condemnation in their own breast , no 
sense of guilt, or dread of the wrath of God. They ' have 
the witness in themselves ' : they are conscious of their interest 
in the blood of sprinkling. ' They have not received again 
the spirit of bondage unto fear,' unto doubt and racking 
uncertainty ; but they ' have received the Spirit of adoption/ 
crying in their heart, ' Abba, Father.' Thus, being ' justified 
by faith,' they have the peace of God ruling in their hearts ; 
flowing from a continual sense of His pardoning mercy, and 
' the answer of a good conscience toward God.' 

3. If it be said, ' But sometimes a believer in Christ may 
lose his sight of the mercy of God ; sometimes such darkness 
may fall upon him that he no longer sees Him that is invisible, 
no longer feels that witness in himself of his part in the atoning 
blood , and then he is inwardly condemned, he hath again " the 
sentence of death in himself " ' I answer, supposing it so 

II. 1. The remission of the sins 
that are past — this phrase in 
Rom. iii. 25 has nothing to do with 
the past sins of the believer ; it 
means the sins committed by the 
men who lived before the coming of 
Christ, and who had been forgiven 
because of His foreseen and pre- 
ordained sacrifice. 

3. Wesley himself, as we have 
seen, passed through a long period 
of darkness after his conversion. 
More than six months after that ex- 
perience, he writes in his Journal 
(January 4, 1739) that he has not 
the fruits of the Spirit ; neither love, 
nor joy, nor peace ; and over and 
over again he affirms, ' I am not a 
Christian.' In Minutes, June 25, 

1744, he says: ' It is certain, a be- 
liever need never again come into 
condemnation. It seems he need 
not come into a state of doubt, or 
fear, or darkness ; and that, ordin- 
arily at least, he will not, unless by 
ignorance or unfaithfulness. Yet it 
is true that the first joy does seldom 
last long ; that it is commonly fol- 
lowed by doubts and fears ; and 
that God frequently permits great 
heaviness before any large manifes- 
tation of Himself.' He deals fully 
with the subject in Sermons XL and 
XLI ; where he distinguishes be- 
tween darkness, which is always 
caused by sin, or ignorance, or temp- 
tation ; and heaviness, which may be 
due to bodily disorders, or calamity. 

1 68 Sermon VIII 

to be, supposing him not to see the mercy of God, then he is 
not a believer for faith implies light , the light of God shining 
upon the souff So far, therefore, as any one loses this light, 
he, for the time, loses his faith. And, no doubt, a true believer 
in Christ may lose the light of faith ; and so far as this is lost, 
he may, for a time, fall again into condemnation. But this 
is not the case of them who now ' are in Christ Jesus,' who 
now believe in His name. For so long as they believe, and walk 
after the Spirit, neither God condemns them, nor their own 

4. They are not condemned, secondly, for any present sins, 
for now transgressing the commandments of God. For they 
do not transgress them they do not ' walk after the flesh, but 
after the Spirit.' This is the continual proof of their ' love 
of God, that they keep His commandments ' , even as St. 
John bears witness, ' Whosoever is born of God doth not 
commit sin. For His seed remaineth in him, and he cannot 
sin, because he is born of God ' he cannot, so long as that 
seed of God, that loving, holy faith remaineth in him. So long 
as ' he keepeth himself ' herein, ' that wicked one toucheth 
him not.' Now it is evident, he is not condemned for the sins 
which he doth not commit at all. They, therefore, who are 
thus ' led by the Spirit are not under the law ' (Gal. v. 18) 

or bereavement ; but he will not tive principle. The children of God 
allow that God ever withdraws Him- can no more live in sin than the 
self, merely of His own good plea- children of the devil out of it. To 
sure, from the believer. Darkness the Christian man sin becomes a 
implies that ' faith itself, if not moral impossibility.' But he adds, 
totally lost, is, however, grievously what Wesley did not always con- 
decayed ' ; heaviness is consistent sider, ' There is obviously a certain 
with ' a clear, unshaken confidence idealism in the Apostle's sweeping 
in God.' This is a modification of assertions. His dictum in verse 9 
the statement in this paragraph that applies in its absolute truth to the 
loss of light implies loss of faith. " perfect man " in Christ Jesus. 
4. ' That seed of God.' Dr. Find- Principle must be wrought into 
lay (Fellowship in the Life Eternal, habit before it has full play and 
p. 266) says: 'That seed of God sway.' So my beloved Master, 
dwelling in the believer in Christ is the Rev. Benjamin Hellier, in his 
the power of the Holy Spirit. Essay on Holiness [Life, p. 295, ss.) 
Thus sin is got rid of not by repres- says : ' How can men be wholly 
sion, but by pre-occupation. The spiritual and yet carnal ? The 
man is possessed by another genera- explanation is found in the difference 

The First-fruits of the Spirit 


not under the curse or condemnation of it ; for it condemns 
none but those who break it. Thus, that law of God, ' Thou 
shalt not steal/ condemns none but those who do steal. Thus, 
' Remember the Sabbath-day to keep it holy/ condemns 
those only who do not keep it holy. But against the fruits 
of the Spirit ' there is no law ' (ver. 23) ; as the Apostle more 
largely declares in those memorable words of his former Epistle 
to Timothy : ' We know that the law is good, if a man use it 
lawfully ; knowing this ' (if, while he uses the law of God, in 
order either to convince or direct, he know and remember this), 
6tl SiKala) voixot; ov /ceZrah (not ' that the law is not made for a 
righteous man/ but) ' that the law does not lie against a right- 
eous man ' it has no force against him, no power to condemn 
him , ' but against the lawless and disobedient, against the 
ungodly and sinners, against the unholy and profane , according 
to the glorious gospel of the blessed God ' (1 Tim. i. 8, 9, 11). 

5. They are not condemned, thirdly, for inward sin, even 
though it does now remain. That the corruption of nature 
does still remain, even in those who are the children of God 
by faith ; that they have in them the seeds of pride and vanity, 
of anger, lust, and evil desire, yea, sin of every kind ; is too 
plain to be denied, being matter of daily experience. And on 
this account it is, that St. Paul, speaking to those whom he 

existing between the ideal and the 
actual.' But we are not to say that 
the Christian who has not yet at- 
tained the ideal is not a Christian at 
all. Wesley's disposition as a 
logician to divide the universe into 
A and not-A made him too solici- 
tous to label every one as either 
Christian or not-Christian, and to 
limit the name Christian to the 
ideally perfect Christian. We do 
not refuse to classify Homer as a 
poet because he sometimes nods, 
and so falls below his own ideal. 
Westcott puts the matter from a 
slightly different point of view : 
' The ideas of divine sonship and 
sin are mutually exclusive. As long 

as the relationship with God is real, 
sinful acts are but accidents. They 
do not touch the essence of man's 

Wesley's emendation of the A.V. 
of 1 Tim. i. 9 cannot be sustained. 
The Greek word is in its classical 
sense ' is enacted ' — ' Law is not 
enacted for a righteous man.' 

5. The corruption of nature does 
still remain ; or in more modern 
language, the appropriate stimuli 
still provoke response in the physical 
and psychical nature. But these 
thoughts are not sinful, unless and 
until they are indulged and dwelt 
upon. To quote Mr. Hellier once 
more (p. 308) : " We may have 

170 Sermon VIII 

had just before witnessed to be ' in Christ Jesus' (1 Cor. i. 
2, 9), to have been ' called of God into the fellowship' (or 
participation) ' of His Son Jesus Christ ' ; yet declares, ' Breth- 
ren, I could not speak unto you as unto spiritual, but as unto 
carnal, even as unto babes in Christ ' (1 Cor. iii. 1) : ' babes in 
Christ ' , so we see they were ' in Christ ' , they were believers 
in a low degree. And yet how much of sin remained in them ! 
of that ' carnal mind, which is not subject to the law of God ' ! 

6. And yet, for all this, they are not condemned. Although 
they feel the flesh, the evil nature, in them , although they are 
more sensible, day by day, that their ' heart is deceitful and 
desperately wicked ' , yet, so long as they do not yield thereto , 
so long as they give no place to the devil ; so long as they 
maintain a continual war with all sin, with pride, anger, desire, 
so that the flesh hath not dominion over them, but they still 
' walk after the Spirit ' , ' there is no condemnation to them 
which are in Christ Jesus.' God is well pleased with their 
sincere, though imperfect obedience , and they ' have confi- 
dence toward God,' knowing they are His, ' by the Spirit which 
He hath given ' them (1 John iii. 24). 

7. Nay, fourthly, although they are continually convinced 
of sin cleaving to all they do , although they are conscious of 
not fulfilling the perfect law, either in their thoughts, or words, 
or works , although they know they do not love the Lord 
their God with all their heart, and mind, and soul, and strength , 
although they feel more or less of pride, or self-will, stealing 
in and mixing with their best duties , although even in their 
more immediate intercourse with God, when they assemble 
themselves with the great congregation, and when they pour 
our their souls in secret to Him who seeth all the thoughts and 
intents of the heart, they are continually ashamed of their 

passing through our minds a thou- tarily continued.* Or, as Milton 

sand thoughts about sin, and yet says, Paradise Lost (v. 118): 
have not one sinful thought.' The Evil into the mind of God or man 

great and good Dr. Johnson, in the May come and go, so unapprov'd, and leave 

Rambler, No. 8 (April 1750), says: No spot or blame behind. 

' Thoughts are only criminal when 7. On the subject of this para 

they are first chosen, and then volun- graph see Sermon XXXVI. 

The First-fruits of the Spirit 171 

wandering thoughts, or of the deadness and dullness of their 
affections , yet there is no condemnation to them still, either 
from God or from their own hearty The consideration of these 
manifold defects only gives them a deeper sense, that they 
I fcave alway sjieed of the blood of sprinkling which speaks for 
them in the ears of God, anll~ffial~ird~vocl^ 
'who ever liveth to make intercession for them.' So far are 
these ffom~dfiving~'them"a^7ay"from Him in whom they have' 
believed, that they rather drive them the closer to Him whorn^ 
they feel the want of every moment. And, at the same timeA 
the deeper sense they have of this want, the more earnest desire 
do they feel, and the more diligent they are, as they ' have 
received the Lord Jesus, so to walk in Him.' 

8. They are not condemned, fifthly, for sins of infirmity, 
as they are usually called. Perhaps it were advisable rather 
to call them infirmities, that we may not seem to give any 
countenance to sin, or to extenuate it in any degree, by thus 
coupling it with infirmity. But (if we must retain so ambiguous 
and dangerous an expression), by sins of infirmity I would 
mean, such involuntary failings as the saying a thing we believe 
true, though, in fact, it prove to be false ; or, the hurting our 
neighbour without knowing or designing it, perhaps when we 
designed to do him good. Though these are deviations from 
the holy, and acceptable, and perfect will of God, yet they are 
not properly sins, nor do they bring any guilt on the conscience 
of ' them which are in Christ Jesus.' They separate not 
between God and them, neither intercept the light of His 
countenance , as being no ways inconsistent with their general 
character of ' walking not after the flesh, but after the Spirit/ 

9. Lastly. ' There is no condemnation ' to them for any- 
thing whatever which it is not in their power to help ; whether 
it be of an inward or outward nature, and whether it be doing 
something or leaving something undone. For instance, the 

8. Infirmities are not sins, any governs also the estimate of the so- 
more than the acts or omissions men- called sins of surprise of par. 1 1 . 
tioned in the next paragraph which The sinfulness of any act is deter - 
it is not in our power to help. mined by the amount of concur- 
' There is no guilt, because there is rence of the will. 
no choice.' And this principle 

172 Sermon VIII 

Lord's supper is to be administered , but you do not partake 
thereof. Why do you not ? You are confined by sickness ; 
therefore you cannot help omitting it; and for the same 
reason you are not condemned. There is no guilt, because 
there is no choice. As there ' is a willing mind, it is accepted 
according to that a man hath, not according to that he hath 

10. A believer, indeed, may sometimes be grieved, because 
he cannot do what his soul longs for. He may cry out when 
he is detained from worshipping God in the great congregation, 
' Like as the hart panteth after the water-brooks, so panteth 
my soul after Thee, O God. My soul is athirst for God, yea, 
even for the living God : when shall I come to appear in the 
presence of God ? ' He may earnestly desire (only still saying 
in his heart, ' Not as I will, but as Thou wilt ') to ' go again with 
the multitude, and bring them forth into the house of God.' 
But still, if he cannot go, he feels no condemnation, no guilt, 
no sense of God's displeasure ; but can cheerfully yield up 
those desires with, ' O my soul, put thy trust in God ! for I 
will yet give Him thanks, who is the help of my countenance 
and my God.' 

11. It is more difficult to determine concerning those which 
are usually styled sins of surprise : as when one who commonly 
in patience possesses his soul, on a sudden and violent tempta- 
tion, speaks or acts in a manner not consistent with the royal 
law, ' Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself.' Perhaps it 
is not easy to fix a general rule concerning transgressions of 
this nature. We cannot say, either that men are, or that they 
are not, condemned for sins of surprise in general : but it 
seems, whenever a believer is by surprise overtaken in a fault, 
there is more or less condemnation, as there is more or less 
concurrence of his will. In proportion as a sinful desire, or 
word, or action is more or less voluntary, so we may conceive 

10. These reminiscences from the which robbed the Methodist people 
Prayer-Book version of Psa. xlii. are of their heritage in this beautiful 
natural to a man who was using that version by substituting for it in our 
version in the daily service. I have service-book the Authorized render- 
never ceased to regret thejpedantry ing. 

The First-fruits of the Spirit 173 

God is more or less displeased, and there is more or less guilt 
upon the soul. 

12. But if so, then there may be some sins of surprise which 
bring much guilt and condemnation. For, in some instances, 
our being surprised is owing to some wilful and culpable neglect , 
or to a sleepiness of soul which might have been prevented, 
or shaken off before the temptation came. A man may be 
previously warned either of God or man, that trials and dangers 
are at hand , and yet may say in his heart, ' A little more 
slumber, a little more folding of the hands to rest.' Now, if 
such an one afterwards fall, though unawares, into the snare 
which he might have avoided,— that he fell unawares is no 
excuse , he might have foreseen and have shunned the danger. 
The falling, even by surprise, in such an instance as this, is, in 
effect, a wilful sin , and, as such, must expose the sinner to 
condemnation, both from God and his own conscience. 

13. On the other hand, there may be sudden assaults, either 
from the world, or the god of this world, and frequently from 
our own evil hearts, which we did not, and hardly could, 
foresee. And by these even a believer, while weak in faith, 
may possibly be borne down, suppose into a degree of anger, 
or thinking evil of another, with scarce any concurrence of his 
will. Now, in such a case, the jealous God would undoubtedly 
show him that he had done foolishly. He would be convinced 
of having swerved from the perfect law, from the mind which 
was in Christ, and consequently, grieved with a godly sorrow, 
and lovingly ashamed before God. Yet need he not come into 
condemnation. God layeth not folly to his charge, but hath 
compassion upon ' him, ' even as a father pitieth his own 
children.' And his heart condemneth him not : in the midst 
of that sorrow and shame he can still say, ' I will trust and not 
be afraid , for the Lord Jehovah is my strength and my song , 
He also is become my salvation.' 

III. 1. It remains only to draw some practical inferences 
from the preceding considerations. 

And, first, if there be ' no condemnation to them which are 
in Christ Jesus,' and ' walk not after the flesh, but after the 

174 Sermon VIII 

Spirit,' on account of their past sin , then why art thou fearful, 
O thou of little faith ? Though thy sins were once more in 
number than the sand, what is that to thee, now thou art in 
Christ Jesus ? ' Who shall lay anything to the charge of 
God's elect ? It is God that justifieth who is he that con- 
demneth ? ' All the sins thou hast committed from thy youth 
up, until the hour when thou wast ' accepted in the Beloved,' 
are driven away as chaff, are gone, are lost, swallowed up, 
remembered no more. Thou art now ' born of the Spirit ' : 
wilt thou be troubled or afraid of what is done before thou 
wert born ? Away with thy fears ! Thou art not called to 
fear, but to tulP spirit of love and of a stJnnTi-mind.^^l&roW" 
thy calling F Rejoice in" God thy Saviour; and give thanks 
to God thy Father through Him. 

2. Wilt thou say, ' But I have again committed sin, since I 
had redemption through His blood ? And therefore it is, 
that " I abhor myself, and repent in dust and ashes." ' It is 
meet thou shouldest abhor thyself , and it is God who hath 
wrought thee to this self-same thing. But, dost thou now 
believe ? Hath He again enabled thee to say, ' I know that 
my Redeemer liveth ' , ' and the life which I now live, I live by 
faith in the Son of God ' ? Then that faith again cancels all 
that is past, and there is no condemnation to thee. ^At ^what- 
soever time thou truly believest in the name of the Son of God, 
all thy sins, antecedent to that hour" vanish away" as the 
morning dew. Now then, 'stand thou fast in the liberty 

■wherewith Christ hathlnade thee free.' He hath once more 
made thee free from the power of sin^as well as from the guilt 
and punishment of it. O ' be not entangled again with the 
yoke of bondage ! '—neither the vile, devilish bondage of sin, 
of evil desires, evil tempers, or words, or works, the most 
grievous yoke on this side hell , nor the bondage of slavish, 
tormenting fear, of guilt and self-condemnation. 

3. But secondly, do all they which abide ' in Christ Jesus, 
walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit'? Then we 
cannot but infer, that whosoever now committeth sin, hath no 
part or lot in this matter. He is even now condemned by his 

III. 3. See note on Sermon V, 1. 

The First-fruits of the Spirit 175 

own heart. But, ' if our heart condemn us/ if our own con- 
science beareth witness that we are guilty, undoubtedly God 
doth ; for ' He is greater than our heart, and knoweth all 
things ' ; so that we cannot deceive Him, if we can ourselves. 
And think not to say, ' I was justified once , my sins were once 
forgiven me ' : I know not that , neither will I dispute whether 
they were or no. Perhaps at this distance of time, it is next 
to impossible to know, with any tolerable degree of certainty, 
whether that was a true, genuine work of God, or whether thou 
didst only deceive thy own soul. But this I know, with the 
utmost de^ee^fj^ertamty^Jie^ajLci^ 
"de^IIT^Therefore, thou art of thy father the devil. It cannot 
"b^Senied for the works of thy father thou doest. O flatter 
not thyself with vain hopes ! Say not to thy soul, ' Peace, 
peace ' ! For there is no peace. Cry aloud ! Cry unto God 
out of the deep , if haply He may hear thy voice. Come unto 
Him as at first, as wretched and poor, as sinful, miserable, 
blind and naked ! And beware thou suffer thy soul to take no 
rest, till His pardoning love be again revealed , till He ' heal 
thy backslidings,' and fill thee again with the ' faith that 
worketh by love.' 

4. Thirdly. Is there no condemnation to them which 
' walk after the Spirit/ by reason of inward sin still remaining, 
so long as they do not give way thereto , nor by reason of sin 
cleaving to all they do ? Then fret not thyself because of 
ungodliness, though it still remain in thy heart. Repine 
""not, because thou still comest short of the giorious image of 
God , nor yet because pride, self-will, or unbelief, cleave to all 
thy wUl'ds" aiuTworks. Andbe not afraid to know all this evil of 
thyjieart^io know thyself as" also thou-art known. Yea, desire 
of God, that thou mayest not think of thyself more highly than 
thou oughtest to think. Let thy continual prayer be, 

Show me, as my soul can bear, 
The depth of inbred sin ; 

All the unbelief declare, 

The pride that lurks within. 

4. The quotation is from Charles for Christ the Prophet,' in Hymns 
Wesley's hymn, entitled 'Waiting and Sacred Poems, 17 42. It is Hymn 

176 Sermon VIII 

But when He heareth thy prayer, and unveils thy heart , when 

He shows thee thoroughly what spirit thou art of ;Jhen beware 

that thy faith fail thee not, that thou suffer not trrysnleKrio 

be torn from thee. Be abased. Be hurhbTed" ln "the dust. 

See thyself no thing, less than nothing, and vanit y. But still 

""let: not thy heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid.' Still 

hold fast, ' I, even I, have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus 

Christ the righteous.' ' And as the heavens are higher than 

the earth, so is His love higher than even my sins.' Therefore 

God is merciful to thee a sinner ! such a sinner as thou art ! 

God is love , and Christ hath died ! Therefore the Father 

Himself loveth thee ! Thou art His child ! Therefore He will 

withhold from thee no manner of thing that is good" li lt 

"good, that the whole body of sin, which is now crucified in 

thee, should be destroyed ? It shall be done ! Thou shalt be 

' cleansed from all filthiness both of flesh and spirit.' Is it 

good, that nothing should remain in thy heart but the pure 

love of God alone ? Be of good cheer ! ' Thou shalt love the 

Lord thy God with all thy heart, and mind, and soul, and 

strength.' ' Faithful is He that hath promised, who also will 

do it.' J[t is thy part, patiently to continue in the work of_ 

faith, and in the labour of love ; and in cheerful peace^jn^ 

liumble conndehce7~with calm and resignecLan iL yet earnest 

'expectation, t<T wafFTSll the zeal of the Lord of hosts shall 

perform this. 

5. Fourthly. If they that 'are in Christ/ and 'walk 
after the Spirit,' are not condemned for sins of infirmity, as 
neither for involuntary failings, nor for anything whatever 
which they are not able to help , then beware, thou that 
hast faith in His blood, that Satan herein gain no advantage 
over thee. Thou art still foolish and weak, blind and igno- 
rant ; more weak than any words can express , more foolish 
than it can yet enter into thy heart to conceive, knowing 

424 in the Methodist Hymn-Book, What a glowing, tender, sympa- 

but there the first verse, ' Christ my thetic, and faithful thing is this whole 

hidden life appear,' is omitted. application ! Note the personal 

These lines are the first four of verse touch — Thou, thee. 
5 (now 4). 

The First-fruits of the Spirit 177 

nothing yet as thou oughtest to know. Yet, let not all thy 
weakness and folly, or any fruit thereof, which thou art not 
yet able to avoid, shake thy faith, thy filial trust in God, or 1 
disturb thy peace or joy in the Lord. The rule which some 
give, as to wilful sins, and which, in that case, may perhaps 
be dangerous, is undoubtedly wise and safe if it be applied 
only to the case of weakness and infirmities. Art thou fallen, 
O man of God ? _Yet^ do^notjie there, fretting thyself and 
Bemoaning thy weakness , but meekly say, ' Lord, I shalljaji^ 
thus every moment, unless Thou uphold me with Thy hand/ 
And then arise ! Leap and walk ! Go on thy way ! ' Run 
with patience the race that is set before thee/ 

6. Lastly. Since a believer need not come into condem- 
nation, even though he be surprised into what his soul abhors 
(suppose his being surprised is not owing to any carelessness 
or wilful neglect of his own) ; if thou who believest art thus 
overtaken in a fault, then grieve unto the Lord : it shall be a 
precious balm. Pour out thy heart before Him, and show Him 
of thy trouble ; and pray with all thy might to Him who is 
' touched with the feeling of thy infirmities,' that He would 
establish, and strengthen, and settle thy soul, and suffer thee 
to fall no more. But still He condemneth thee not. Where- 
fore shouldest thou fear ? Thou hast no need of any ' fear 
that hath torment.' Thou shalt love Him that loveth thee, 
and it sufncethj more love will bring more strengThr^Anr^Has- 
'soon as~thou lovest Him wlthTall TEy Tieart, thou shalt be 
' perfect and entire, lacking nothing.' Wait in peace for that 
hour, when ' the God of peace shall sanctify thee wholly, so 
that thy whole spirit and soul and body may be preserved 
blameless unto the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ ' ! 


In the Journal for Sunday, October 7, 1739, Wesley says, ' A few, 
I trust, out of two or three thousand were awakened by the explana- 
tion of those words : " Ye have not received the spirit of bondage," 
Sec' This was at Gloucester, and the service was held at seven 
in the morning. On April 25 of the same year he records: ' To above 
two thousand at Baptist Mills (Bristol) I explained that glorious scrip- 
ture, describing the state of every true believer in Christ — every | 
who by faith is born of God — " Ye have not received," &c.' This 
service was held at four in the afternoon. He preached it again at 
Bristol at 7.30 a.m. on March 10, 1741 ; from his father's tombstonep 
Epworth, June 10, 1742; and on September 17, 1743, at Morvah ' to 
the largest congregation I have seen in Cornwall.' 

The distinction, which is the essence of this sermon, between the 
natural man, the awakened sinner, and the believer, is a sound and 
useful one ; especially when the concession in iv. 2, that these states 
may sometimes not be mutually exclusive, is borne in mind. But 11 
is doubtful whether St. Paul meant by * a spirit of bondage ' tht 
temper of the convicted man ; it rather refers to the condition of < 
Jew under the law, and of a Gentile under the sway of superstition, u 
contrast with the liberty of the Christian. The earnest Jew or heathei 
hopes to be saved by obedience to certain laws, precepts, and oDlf 
vances ; he is a slave to these, and is constantly in fear lest he shorn* 
have failed to keep them. The Pharisee, striving anxiously to observ 
every point in the thousand and one precepts of the Mishnah, and t 
savage of New Britain, hedged about at every moment of his life 
tabus and the dread of witchcraft, are equally slaves, and live 1 
constant fear of offending. This is th e, spirit of bonda gejgnding t 
fear to which St. Paul refers ; but it is perhaps justifiable to a PP^3 
phrase to the convicted sinner, who is certainly an example 01 t 
spirit, though not the only one. 


The Spirit of Bondage and of Adoption 179 

Ye have not received the spirit of bondage again unto fear ; but ye have 
received the Spirit of adoption, whereby we cry, Abba, Father. — 
Rom. viii. 15. 

i. St. Paul here speaks to those who are the children of God 
by faith. ' Ye,' saith he, who are indeed His children, have 
drank into His Spirit , ' ye have not received the spirit of 
bondage again unto fear ' , but, ' because ye are sons, God 
hath sent forth the Spirit of His Son into your hearts.' ' Ye 
have received the Spirit of adoption, whereby we cry, Abba, 

2. The spirit of bondage and fear is widely distant from 
this loving Spirit of adoption : those who are influenced only 
by slavish fear cannot be termed ' the sons of God ' ; yet 
some of them may be styled His servants, and are ' not far 
from the kingdom of heaven.' 

3. But it is to be feared, the bulk of mankind, yea, of what 

Par. 2. At first Wesley was dis- 
posed to deny that any one who 
had not received the spirit of adop- 
tion was a Christian. But he found 
it more and more impossible to main- 
tain this position. As early as 1746, 
in Minutes, May 13, Q. 11, he de- 
fines a ' Jew inwardly ' as ' a ser- 
vant of God ; one who sincerely 
obeys Him out of fear ; whereas a 
Christian inwardly is a child of God ; 
one who sincerely obeys Him out 
of love.' In his own note on the 
concluding portion of his sixth 
Savannah Journal, in which he 
speaks of his not having been con- 
verted to God up to that time (1738), 
he says, ' I had even then the faith 
of a servant, though not that of a 
son.' In Sermon CVI, on Faith, 
i. 11, he says: 'Nearly fifty years 
ago, when the Preachers, commonly 
called Methodists, began to preach 
that grand scriptural doctrine, sal- 
vation by faith, they were not suffi- 
ciently apprised of the difference 
between a servant and a child ni 

God. They did not clearly under- 
stand that every one " who feareth 
God and worketh righteousness is 
accepted of Him." ' And in Ser- 
mon CX, on The Discoveries of Faith, 
written at Yarm in 1788, par. 13, he 
says, ' The faith of a servant implies 
a divine evidence of the invisible 
and the eternal world ; yea, an 
evidence of the spiritual world, so 
far as it can exist without living ex- 
perience. Whosoever has attained 
this, the faith of a servant, ' ' feareth 
God and escheweth evil " ; or, as it 
is expressed by St. Peter, " feareth 
God and worketh righteousness." In 
consequence of which he is, in a 
degree, as the Apostle observes, 
" accepted with Him." Every 

one who has gone thus far in re- 
ligion, who obeys God out of fear is 
not in any wise to be despised ; see- 
ing " the fear of the Lord is the be- 
ginning of wisdom." Nevertheless, 
he should be exhorted not to stop 


Sermon IX 

is called the Christian world, have not attained even this, 
but are still afar off, ' neither is God in all their thoughts.' 
A few names may be found of those who love God ; a few 
more there are that fear Him , but the greater part have 
neither the fear of God before their eyes, nor the love of God 
in their hearts. 

4. Perhaps most of you, who, by the mercy of God r .now 
partake of a better spirit, may remember the time when ye 
were as they, when ye were under the same condemnation. 
But at first ye knew it not, though ye were wallowing daily 
in your sins and in your blood , till, in due time, ye ' received 
the spirit of fear ' (ye received, for this also is the gift of God) ; 
and afterwards, fear vanished away, and the Spirit of love 
filled your hearts. 

5. One who is in the first state of mind, without fear or love, 
is in Scripture termed a ' natural man ' : one who is under the 
spirit of bondage and fearTis sometimes said to be ' under the 
law ' (although that expression more frequently signifies one" 
who is under the Jewish dispensation, or who thinks himself 
obliged to observe all the rites and ceremonies of the Jewish 
law) but one who has exchanged the spirit of fear for the Spirit 
of love is properly said to be ' under grace.' 

4. ' This also is the gift of God.' 
The text will not carry the weight of 
this inference. Sanday and Head- 
lam paraphrase the passage thus : 
' When you were first baptized, and 
the communication of the Holy 
Spirit sealed your admission into the 
Christian fold, the energies which 
He imparted were surely not those of 
a slave.' Wesley recognizes the 
force of the aorist (ye received, not 
ye have received) ; but he is not 
justified in arguing that because we 
did not receive the spirit of bondage 
then, we or others did receive it at 
some other time. 

5. ' The natural man.' This is 
the rather inadequate translation of 
the Greek fodpuiros ^vxuc6s, the 
psychical man ; i.e. the man in 

whom the rveu/xa is still dormant, 
and whose motives are those which 
arise from the desires of the flesh 
and the mind. See introduction to 
Sermon V. and note on Sermon VIII, 
i. 2. This ' psychic ' man ' receiveth 
not the things of the Spirit of God ' 
(1 Cor. ii. 14) ; our present body is 
a ' psychic ' body (1 Cor. xv. 44), a 
body developed hand in hand with 
the psyche, and therefore adapted 
to fulfil its desires ; our resurrec- 
tion body will be a ' pneumatic ' 
body, adapted to the needs and 
desires of the pneuma, or spirit. The 
wisdom of this world is 'earthly, 
psychic, devilish ' (Jas. iii. 15)- The 
mockers in Jude 19 are ' psychic, 
not having a pneuma.' 

The Spirit of Bondage and of Adoption 181 

Now, because it highly imports us to know what spirit we are 
of, I shall endeavour to point out distinctly, first, the state of 
a ' natural man ' , secondly, that of one who is ' under the law ' , 
and, thirdly, of one who is ' under grace/ 

I. i. And, first, the state of a natural man. This the 
Scripture represents as a state of sleep : the voice of God to 
him is, ' Awake, thou that sleepest.' For his soul is in a deep 
sleep : his spiritual senses are not awake they discern neither 
spiritual good nor evil. The eyes of his understanding are 
closed , they are sealed together, and see not. Clouds and 
darkness continually rest upon them , for he lies in the valley 
of the shadow of death. Hence, having no inlets for the 
knowledge of spiritual things, all the avenues of his soul being 
shut up, he is in gross, stupid ignorance of whatever he is most 

I. i. The natural man is spoken 
of inferentially as ' asleep ' in 
Eph. v. 14 and 1 Thess. v. 6 ; but 
the commoner figure for him is that 
of death, especially in St. John's 
k GospeI and first Epistle : he is ' dead 
in trespasses and sins ' (Eph. ii. 5), 
he ' abideth in death ' (1 John iii. 14). 
It is curious that Wesley should 
have preferred the weaker figure of 
sleep to the stronger and commoner 
one of death. The pneuma is actu- 
ally dead until revived by the breath 
of the Spirit of God, the Giver of 
Life. But, as is suggested in par. 
iv. 2, no man is left without some 
measure of the preveaient grace of 
the Holy Spirit ; otherwise he could 
never begin to stir with the faintest 
pulse of spiritual life. 

St. Paul's use of the word povs, 
understanding, requires some con- 
sideration. Sometimes he seems to 
make it almost equivalent to pneuma; 
as in Rom. vii. 25, ' With my nous 
I serve the law of God, but with my 
sarx the law of sin'; 1 Cor. ii. 16, 
' we have the nous of Christ,' which 
is much the same thing as ' the spirit 

(pneuma) of Christ.' More often it 
seems to be a function of the " natural 
man ' ; it needs renewal (Rom. xii. 
2 ; Eph. iv. 23) ; the Gentiles walk 
in the ' vanity of their nous ' 
(Eph. iv. 17) ; and are described as 
' corrupted in their nous ' (1 Tim. 
vi. 6 ; 2 Tim. iii. 8) ; indeed, in 
Col. ii. 18 we read of men ' puffed 
up by the nous of the sarx.' The 
solution of the puzzle is that nous 
is a function of the psyche ; it is the 
intellectual part of the natural man, 
and through it he is able to reason 
and apprehend truth ; a man need 
not be converted in order to be a 
great mathematician or scientist. 
But it is also a function of the 
pneuma, though subordinate to it ; 
we are to pray with the pneuma and 
with the nous also (1 Cor. xiv. 15). 
The inspiration of the Spirit does not 
supersede or invalidate the processes 
of reason. So that it is hardly cor- 
rect to say that in the natural man 
' the eyes of his understanding are 
closed,' &c. This is true of spiritual 
things, but not of all objects of 

182 Sermon IX 

concerned to know. He is utterly ignorant of God, knowing 
nothing concerning Him as he ought to know. He is totally a 
stranger to the law of God, as to its true, inward, spiritual 
meaning. He has no conception of that evangelical holiness 
without which no man shall see the Lord , nor of the happiness 
which they only find whose ' life is hid with Christ in God.' 

2. And, for this very reason, because he is fasj^jisleep, he 
is, in some sense, at rest. Because he is blind, he is also. 
.secure :_ he saith, ' Tush, there shall no harm happen unto 
me.' The darkness which covers him on every side, keeps 
him in a kind of peace , so far as peace can consist with the 
works of the devil, and with an earthly, devilish mind. He 
sees not that he stands on the edge of the pit ; therefore he 
fears it not. He cannot tremble at the danger he does not 
know. He has not understanding enough to fear. Why is it 
that he is in no dread of God ? Because he is totally ignorant 
of Him if not saying in his heart, ' There is no God ' , or, 
that ' He sitteth on the circle of the heavens, and humbleth ' 
not ' Himself to behold the things which are done on earth ' , 
yet satisfying himself as well, to all Epicurean intents and 
purposes, by saying, ' God is merciful ' ; confounding and 
swallowing up all at once in that unwieldy idea of mercy all 
His holiness and essential hatred of sin , all His justice, wisdom, 
and truth. He is in no dread of the vengeance denounced 
against those who obey not the blessed law of God, because 
le understands it not. He imagines the main point is, to do 
hus, to be outwardly blameless ; and sees not that it extends 
;o every temper, desire, thought, motion of the heart. Or he 
ancies that the obligation hereto is ceased , that Christ came 
:o ' destroy the Law and the Prophets ' ; to save His people 

I. 2. Secure ' ; that is, accord- good, nevertheless thought that the 

ng to the old and more correct mean- highest form of pleasure was to be 

ng of the word, ' free from care or found in plain living and high think- 

inxiety,' not 'safe.' mg . p r0Da bly Wesley used the 

"Epicurean': the word had come word here with some reference to 

:o be used generally in the sense of the teaching of Epicurus that ' God 

pleasure-loving, self-indulgent,' and does nothing, is not involved in any 

;ven ' luxurious ' ; which was hardly occupations, performs no toil, re- 

ust to Epicurus, who, though he joices in His own wisdom and virtue' 

:aught that pleasure was the highest (Cic. De Nat. Deorum, i. 19). 

The Spirit of Bondage and of Adoption 183 

in, not from, their sins ; to bring them to heaven without 
holiness — notwithstanding His own words, ' Not one jot or 
tittle of the law shall pass away," till all things are fulfilled ' ; 
and, ' Not every one that saith unto Me, Lord, Lord ! shall 
enter into the kingdom of heaven , but he that doeth the will 
of My Father which is in heaven.' 

3. He is secure, because he is utterly ignorant of himself. 
Hence he talks of ' repenting by-and-by ' , he does not indeed 
exactly know when, but some time or other before he dies; 
taking it for granted, that this is quite in his own power. 
For what should hinder his doing it, if he will ? If he does 
but once set a resolution, no fear but he will make it good ! 

4. But this ignorance never so strongly glares, as in those 
who are termed men of learning. If a natural man be one 
of these, he can talk at large of his rational faculties, of the 
freedom of his will, and the absolute necessity of such free- 
dom, in order to constitute man a moral agent. He reads, 
and argues, and proves to a demonstration, that every man 

4. Wesley sets forth very clearly 
his view on Freewill in Predestina- 
tion Calmly Considered (1752), par. 
45, ss. After quoting from the 
Westminster Confession, chap. ix. 
' God hath endued the will of man 
with that natural liberty that is 
neither forced nor, by an absolute 
necessity of nature, determined to 
do good or evil ' ; he says, ' I do 
not carry free-will so far ; I mean, not 
in moral things ; natural free-will 
in the present state of mankind, I 
do not understand ; I only assert 
that there is a measure of free-will 
supernaturally restored to every 
man, together with that super- 
natural light which "• enlightens 
every man that cometh into the 
world.' " He accepts the teaching 
of Article X of the Church of Eng- 
land : ' The condition of man after 
the fall of Adam is such, that he 
cannot turn and prepare himself by 
his own natural strength and good 

works to faith and calling upon God. 
Wherefore we have no power to do 
good works, pleasant and acceptable 
to God, without the grace of God by 
Christ preventing us, that we may 
have a good will, and working with 
us when we have that good will.' 
In a letter to John Mason, Novem- 
ber 21, 1776, he speaks of the Cal- 
vinistic supposition ' that a natural 
man is as dead as a stone ' as utterly 
false and absurd ; ' seeing no man 
living is without some preventing 
grace ; and every degree of grace 
is a degree of life.' In other words, 
the natural man does not exist in 
rerum natura, any more than the 
' almost Christian ' described in Ser- 
mon II. He is merely a museum 
specimen, constructed a priori ; he 
is conceivable (as a stone without 
weight is conceivable, and may be 
used in the hypothesis of a mathe- 
matical problem) ; but you can 
never find him. 

184 Sermon IX 

may do as he will , may dispose his own heart to evil or good, 
as it seems best in his own eyes. Thus the god of this world 
spreads a double veil of blindness over his heart, lest, by any 
means, ' the light of the glorious gospel of Christ should 
shine ' upon it. 

5. From the same ignorance of himself and God, there 
may sometimes arise, in the natural man, a kind of joy, in 
congratulating himself upon his own wisdom and goodness; 
and what the world calls joy he may often possess. He may 
have pleasure in various kinds ; either in gratifying the desires 
of the flesh, or the desire of the eye, or the pride of life, 
particularly if he has large possessions ; if he enjoy an affluent 
fortune ; then he may ' clothe ' himself ' in purple and fine 
linen, and fare sumptuously every day.' And so long as he 
thus doeth well unto himself, men will doubtless speak good of 
him. They will say, ' He is a happy man.' For, indeed, this 
is the sum of worldly happiness ; to dress, and visit, and talk, 
and eat, and drink, and rise up to play. 

6. It is not surprising, if one in such circumstances as 
these, dosed with the opiates of flattery and sin, should 
imagine, among his other waking dreams, that he walks in 
great liberty. How easily may he persuade himself, that he is 
at liberty from all vulgar errors, and from the prejudice of 
education , judging exactly right, and keeping clear of all 
extremes. ' I am free,' may he say, ' from all the enthusiasm 
of weak and narrow souls ■; from superstition, the disease of fools 
and cowards, always righteous over much , and from bigotry, 
continually incident to those who have not a free and generous 
way of thinking.' And too sure it is, that he is altogether 
free from the ' wisdom which cometh from above,' from holi- 
ness, from the religion of the heart, from the whole mind 
which was in Christ. 

5. This summary of worldly hap- exhaustive. A man may find the 

piness might easily be illustrated chief pleasure of his life in music, 

from the satirical articles on fashion- or art, or literature, or scientific 

able life in the Spectator and the inquiry, and yet be entirely devoid 

Tatler and the other periodical of religion, 
journals of the time ; but it is not 

The Spirit of Bondage and of Adoption 185 

7. For all this time he is the servant of sin. He commits 
sin, more or less, day by day. Yet he is not troubled : he ' is 
in no bondage/ as some speak ; he feels no condemnation. 
He contents himself (even though he should profess to believe 
that the Christian Revelation is of God) with, ' Man is frail. 
We are all weak. Every man has his infirmity.' Perhaps he 
quotes Scripture : ' Why, does not Solomon say, The righteous 
man falls into sin seven times a day? And, doubtless, they 
are all hypocrites or enthusiasts who pretend to be better 
than their neighbours.' If, at any time, a serious thought fix 
upon him, he stifles it as soon as possible, with, ' Why should 
I fear, since God is merciful, and Christ died for sinners ? ' 
Thus, he remains a willing servant of sin, content with the 
bondage of corruption , inwardly and outwardly unholy, and 
satisfied therewith , not only not conquering sin, but not 
striving to conquer, particularly that sin which doth so easily 
beset him. 

8. Such is the state of every natural man ; whether he be 
a gross, scandalous transgressor, or a more reputable and 
decent sinner, having the form, though not the power, of god- 
liness. But how can such an one be convinced of sin ? How 
is he brought to repent, to be under the law, to receive the 
spirit of bondage unto fear ? This is the point which is next 
to be considered. 

II. 1. By some awful providence, or by His word applied 
with the demonstration of His Spirit, God touches the heart 
of him that lay asleep in darkness and in the shadow of death. 
He is terribly shaken out of his sleep, and awakes into a 
consciousness of his danger. Perhaps in a moment, perhaps 
by degrees, the eyes of his understanding are opened, and 
now first (the veil being in part removed) discern the real 

7. The natural man is made, prob- II. i. Wesley was thinking of 

ably with intention, to quote Solo- Milton's description of the light of 

mon incorrectly. What is said in hell {Par. Lost, i. 62) : 

Prov. xxiv. 16, is, ' A just man falleth 

,. , . ,, . , A dungeon horrible on all sides round c 

seven times, and riseth Up again, As one great furnace flam'd; yet from those 

the reference being not to sin, but M ^t? 6 ! * iU A , . . w 

° ' No light, but rather darkness visible 

to misfortune. Serv'd only to discover sights of woe. 

186 Sermon IX 

state he is in. Horrid light breaks in upon his soul ; such 
light as may be conceived to gleam from the bottomless pit, 
from the lowest deep, from a lake of fire burning with brim- 
stone. He at last sees the loving, the merciful God is also 
' a consuming fire ' , that He is a just God and a terrible, 
rendering to every man according to his works, entering into 
judgement with the ungodly for every idle word, yea, and for 
the imaginations of the heart. He now clearly perceives, that 
the great and holy God is ' of purer eyes than to behold 
iniquity ' ; that He is an avenger of every one who rebelleth 
against Him, and repayeth the wicked to his face; and 
that ' it is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living 

2. The inward, spiritual meaning of the law of God now 
begins to glare upon him. He perceives ' the commandment 
is exceeding broad/ and there is ' nothing hid from the light 
thereof.' He is convinced, that every part of it relates, not 
barely to outward sin or obedience, but to what passes in the 
secret recesses of the soul, which no eye but God's can pene- 
trate. If he now hears, ' Thou shalt not kill,' God speaks in 
thunder, ' He that hateth his brother is a murderer ' ; 'He 
that saith unto his brother, Thou fool, is obnoxious to hell-fire.' 
If the law say, ' Thou shalt not commit adultery,' the voice 
of the Lord sounds in his ears, ' He that looketh on a woman 
to lust after her hath committed adultery with her already in 
his heart.' And thus, in every point, he feels the Word of 
God ' quick and powerful, sharper than a two-edged sword.' 
It ' pierces even to the dividing asunder of his soul and 
spirit, his joints and marrow.' And so much the more, 
because he is conscious to himself of having neglected so 
great salvation ; of having ' trodden under foot the Son of 
God,' who would have saved him from his sins, and ' counted 

2. ' Obnoxious to ' : in the old who sin wilfully after they have re- 
sense of the word, liable to. ceived the knowledge of the truth ; 

' Trodden under foot the Son and specifically to those converts 

of God.' This passage (Heb. x. 29) from Judaism to Christianity who 

is wrongly applied here to the have apostatized, 
awakened sinner ; it refers to those 

The Spirit of Bondage and of Adoption 187 

the blood of the covenant an unholy/ a common, unsanctifying 
' thing/ 

3. And as he knows, ' all things are naked and open unto 
the eyes of Him with whom we have to do/ so he sees himself 
naked, stripped of all the fig-leaves which he had sewed 
together, of all his poor pretences to religion or virtue, and his 
wretched excuses for sinning against God. He now sees him- 
self, like the ancient sacrifices, Te.Tpayr\kiajxkvov, cleft in sunder, 
as it were, from the neck downward, so that all within him 
stands confessed. His heart is bare, and he sees it is all sin, 
' deceitful above all things, desperately wicked ' ; that it is 
altogether corrupt and abominable, more than it is possible 
for tongue to express , that there dwelleth therein no good 
thing, but unrighteousness and ungodliness only , every motion 
thereof, every temper and thought, being only evil continually. 

4. And he not only sees, but feels in himself, by an emotion 
of soul which he cannot describe, that for the sins of his heart, 
were his life without blame (which yet it is not, and cannot 
be ; seeing ' an evil tree cannot bring forth good fruit '), he 
deserves to be cast into the fire that never shall be quenched. 
He feels that ' the wages/ the just reward, ' of sin,' of his 
sin above all, ' is death ' , even the second death, the death 
which dieth not, the destruction of body and soul in hell. 

5. Here ends his pleasing dream, his delusive rest, his false 
peace, his vain security. His joy now vanishes as a cloud , 
pleasures, once loved, delight no more. They pall upon the 
taste he loathes the nauseous sweet , he is weary to bear 

3. ' Cleft in sunder,' &c. This is 
Chrysostom's interpretation of this 
difficult word. Others, following 
Philo's usage, take it to mean ' laid 
prostrate ' ; others again ' with the 
neck exposed by the throwing back 
of the head.' Wesley misses an im- 
portant point in the passage (Heb. iv. 
12), which bears directly on the dis- 
tinction he draws between the 
natural and the spiritual man : 
' The word of God cleaves through, 
even to the severance of psyche and 

pneuma ' ; i.e., as Dr. Edwards 
paraphrases it, ' Revelation has separ- 
ated between the life of heathenism 
and the life of the Church, between 
the natural man and the spiritual, 
between the darkness that compre- 
hended it not, and the children of 
light who received it and thus 
became children of God.' 

5. ' The nauseous sweet.' Doubt- 
less a reference to the fruit of the 
Tree of Knowledge of Good and 

188 Sermon IX 

them. The shadows of happiness flee away, and sink into 
oblivion : so that he is stripped of all, and wanders to and fro, 
seeking rest, but finding none. 

6. The fumes of those opiates being now dispelled, he feels 
the anguish of a wounded spirit. He finds that sin let loose 
upon the soul (whether it be pride, anger, or evil desire, 
whether self-will, malice, envy, revenge, or any other) is 
perfect misery : he feels sorrow of heart for the blessings he 
has lost, and the curse which is come upon him , remorse for 
having thus destroyed himself, and despised his own mercies , 
fear, from a lively sense of the wrath of God, and of the con- 
sequences of His wrath, of the punishment which He has justly 
deserved, and which he sees hanging over his head ; fear of 
death, as being to him the gate of hell, the entrance of death 
eternal ; fear of the devil, the executioner of the wrath and 
righteous vengeance of God ; fear of men, who, if they were 
able to kill his body, would thereby plunge both body and soul 
into hell, — fear, sometimes arising to such a height, that the 
poor, sinful, guilty soul is terrified with everything, with nothing, 
with shades, with a leaf shaken of the wind. Yea, sometimes 
it may even border upon distraction, making a man ' drunken 
though not with wine,' suspending the exercise of the memory, 
of the understanding, of all the natural faculties. Some- 
times it may approach to the very brink of despair , so that 
he who trembles at the name of death, may yet be ready to 
plunge into it every moment, to ' choose strangling rather 
than life.' Well may such a man roar, like him of old, for 
the very disquietness of his heart. Well may he cry out, 
' The spirit of a man may sustain his infirmities , but a wounded 
spirit who can bear ? ' 

7. Now he truly desires to break loose from sin, and begins 
to struggle with it. But though he strive with all his might, 
he cannot conquer : sin is mightier than he. He would fain 
escape , but he is so fast in prison, that he cannot get forth. 
He resolves against sin, but yet sins on : he sees the snare, 
and abhors and runs into it. So much does his boasted 
reason avail — only to enhance his guilt, and increase his 
misery ! Such is the freedom of his will , free only to evil , 

The Spirit of Bondage and of Adoption 189 

free to ' drink in iniquity like water ' , to wander farther and 
farther from the living God, and do more ' despite to the Spirit 
of grace.' 

8. The more he strives, wishes, labours to be free, the more 
does he feel his chains, the grievous chains of sin, wherewith 
Satan binds and ' leads him captive at his will ' , his servant 
he is, though he repine ever so much , though he rebel, he 
cannot prevail. He is still in bondage and fear, by reason of 
sin generally, of some outward sin, to which he is peculiarly 
disposed, either by nature, custom, or outward circumstances , 
but always, of some inward sin, some evil temper or unholy 
affection. And the more he frets against it the more it pre- 
vails , he may bite, but cannot break his chain. Thus he 
toils without end, repenting and sinning, and repenting and 
sinning again, till at length the poor, sinful, helpless wretch 
is even at his wit's end, and can barely groan, ' O wretched 
man that I am ! who shall deliver me from the body of this 
death ? ' 

9. This whole struggle of one who is ' under the law,' under 
the ' spirit of fear and bondage/ is beautifully described by 
the Apostle in the foregoing chapter, speaking in the person 
of an awakened man. ' I,' saith he, ' was alive without the 
law once ' (verse 9) I had much life, wisdom, strength, and 
virtue ; so I thought ' but when the commandment came, 
sin revived, and I died' when the commandment, in its 
spiritual meaning, came to my heart, with the power of God J 
my inbred sin was stirred up, fretted, inflamed, and all my 
virtue died away. ' And the commandment, which was 
ordained to life, I found to be unto death. For sin, taking) 
occasion by the commandment, deceived me, and by it slew 
me ' (verses 10, 11) : it came upon me unawares ; slew all 
my hopes , and plainly showed, in the midst of life I was 
in death. ' Wherefore the law is holy, and the command- 
ment holy, and just, and good ' (verse 12) : I no longer lay 
the blame on this, but on the corruption of my own heart. 
I acknowledge that ' the law is spiritual ; but I am carnal, 
sold under sin ' (verse 14) : I now see both the spiritual nature 
of the law , and my own carnal, devilish heart ' sold under 


Sermon IX 

sin/ totally enslaved (like slaves bought with money, who 
were absolutely at their master's disposal) : ' for that which 
I do, I allow not , for what I would, I do not , but what I 
hate, that I do ' (verse 15) : such is the bondage under which 
I groan , such the tyranny of my hard master. ' To will 
is present with me ; but how to perform that which is good 
I find not. For the good that I would, I do not , but the 
evil which I would not, that I do ' (verses 18, 19) ' I find 
a law,' an inward constraining power, ' that, when I would 
do good, evil is present with me. For I delight in,' or consent 
to, ' the law of God, after the inward man ' (verses 21, 22) : 
in my ' mind ' (so the Apostle explains himself in the words 
that immediately follow , and so 6 eaco dvOpcoiro^, the inward 
man, is understood in all other Greek writers) ' but I see 
another law in my members,' another constraining power, 
' warring against the law of my mind,' or inward man, ' and 
bringing me into captivity to the law ' or power ' of sin ' 
(verse 23) : dragging me, as it were, at my conqueror's chariot- 
wheels, into the very thing which my soul abhors. ' 
wretched man that I am ! who shall deliver me from the 
body of this death ? ' (verse 24). Who shall deliver me from 
this helpless, dying life, from this bondage of sin and misery? 
Till this is done, ' I myself ' (or rather, that I, aMs tyw, 
that man I am now personating) ' with the mind,' or inward 

9. ' All other Greek writers. ' 
Plato, Rep. ix. 589 a, says : ' Actions 
and words ought to be such as will 
enable the inward man (6 ivrbs 
AvOpwiros) to have the firmest con- 
trol over the entire man ' ; and 
later : ' The practices which are held 
to be fair or foul, are fair or foul 
according as they either subjugate 
the brutal parts of our nature to the 
man, perhaps I should rather say, 
to the divine part — or make the tame 
part the servant and slave of the 
wild.' Similarly in Rep. iv. 439 d, 
he says : ' Then we shall have reason- 
able grounds for assuming that these 
are two principles distinct one from 

the other, and for giving to that 
part of the soul with which it reasons 
the title of the rational principle, 
and to that part with which it loves 
and hungers and thirsts, and experi- 
ences the flutter of the other desires, 
the title of the irrational and con- 
cupiscent principle, the ally of 
sundry indulgences and pleasures.' 
Philo says there is a man in man, a 
better in a worse, an immortal in a 
mortal ; Plotinus, Ennead, I. i. I0 » 
says, ' The body is animal, made like 
the beasts ; the true man is quite 

'That man I am now personat- 
ing.' The Greek will not bear this 

The Spirit of Bondage and of Adoption 191 

man, ' serve the law of God ' ; my mind, my conscience, is 
on God's side : ' but with my flesh,' with my body, ' the law 
of sin ' (verse 25), being hurried away by a force I cannot resist. 
10. How lively a portraiture is this of one ' under the 
law ' ! one who feels the burden he cannot shake off , who 
pants after liberty, power, and love, but is in fear and bondage 
still ! until the time that God answers the wretched man, 
crying out, ' Who shall deliver me ' from this bondage of 
sin, from this body of death ? — ' The grace of God through 
Jesus Christ thy Lord.' 

III. 1. Then it is that this miserable bondage ends, and he 
is no more ' under the law, but under grace.' This state we 
are, thirdly, to consider ; the state of one who has found grace 
or favour in the sight of God, even the Father, and who has 
the grace or power of the Holy Ghost reigning in his heart ; 

translation ; it means not ' that I,' 
but ' I myself,' i.e. the inward man. 
The note on this passage in Sanday 
and Headlam is in close agreement 
with Wesley's general interpreta- 
tion of the chapter, ' Three steps 
appear to be distinguished : (i) the 
life of unconscious morality, happy, 
but only from ignorance and thought- 
lessness ; (2) then the sharp collision 
between law and the sinful appetites 
waking to activity ; (3) the end 
which is at last put to the stress and 
strain of this collision by the inter- 
vention of Christ and the Spirit of 

10. We may compare with Wes- 
ley's description of the state of mind 
of the convicted sinner the account 
of it by Starbuck {Psychology of Re- 
ligion) : ' There are many shades of 
experience in this pre-conversion 
state. An attempt at a classifica- 
tion of them gave these not very 
different groups : conviction for sin 
proper, struggle after the new life ; 
prayer, calling upon God ; sense of 
estrangement from God ; doubts 

and questionings ; tendency to re- 
sist conviction ; depression and 
sadness ; restlessness, anxiety, and 
uncertainty ; helplessness and hu- 
mility ; earnestness and seriousness ; 
and various bodily affections. 
The central fact in all [is] the sense 
of sin, while the other conditions are 
various manifestations of this.' It 
is most necessary to remember that 
genuine conviction of sin does not 
in every case involve the extreme 
experiences described in Wesley's 
picture. I speak feelingly, for I 
suffered for some months from a 
doubt of the reality of my own con- 
version, because I had not had any 
such poignant agonies of soul as I 
had heard preachers associate with 
true repentance. A sentence of 
Henry Ward Beecher's, which I can- 
not now identify exactly, saved me 
from despair ; it was to the effect 
that if repentance had been deep 
enough to lead the sinner to forsake 
his sins and seek mercy, nothing . 
more was necessary. < 

192 Sermon IX 

who has received, in the language of the Apostle, the ' Spirit 
of adoption, whereby ' he now cries, ' Abba, Father ! ' 

2. ' He cried unto the Lord in his trouble, and God delivers 
him out of his distress.' His eyes are opened in quite another 
manner than before, even to see a loving, gracious God. 
While he is calling, ' I beseech Thee, show me Thy glory ! '— 
he hears a voice in his inmost soul, ' I will make all My good- 
ness pass before thee, and I will proclaim the name of the 
Lord I will be gracious to whom I will be gracious, and I 
will show mercy to whom I will show mercy.' And it is not 
long before ' the Lord descends in the cloud, and proclaims 
the name of the Lord.' Then he sees, but not with eyes of 
flesh and blood, ' The Lord, the Lord God, merciful and 
gracious, long-suffering, and abundant in goodness and truth ; 
keeping mercy for thousands, and forgiving iniquities, and 
transgressions, and sin.' 

3. Heavenly, healing light now breaks in upon his soul. 
He ' looks on Him whom he had pierced ' , and ' God, who 
out of darkness commanded light to shine, shineth in his 
heart.' He sees the light of the glorious love of God, in the 
face of Jesus Christ. He hath a divine ' evidence of things 
not seen ' by sense, even of ' the deep things of God ' , more 
particularly of the love of God, of His pardoning love to him 
that believes in Jesus. Overpowered with the sight, his whole 
soul cries out, ' My Lord, and my God ! ' For he sees all his 
iniquities laid on Him who ' bare them in His own body on 
the tree ' he beholds the Lamb of God taking away his sins. 
How clearly now does he discern, that ' God was in Christ, 
reconciling the world unto Himself , making Him sin for us, 
who knew no sin, that we might be made the righteousness of 
God through Him ' , and that he himself is reconciled to 
God, by that blood of the covenant ! 

4. Here end both the guilt and power of sin. He can now 
say, ' I am crucified with Christ , nevertheless I live , yet not 
I, but Christ liveth in me , and the life which I now live in the 
flesh ' (even in this mortal body), ' I live by faith in the Son of 
God, who loved me, and gave Himself for me.' Here end 
remorse, and sorrow of heart, and the anguish of a wounded 

The Spirit of Bondage and of Adoption 193 

spirit. ' God turneth his heaviness into joy.' He made sore, 
and now His hands bind up. Here ends also that bondage 
unto fear ; for ' his heart standeth fast, believing in the Lord.' 
JHe^cannot fear any longer the wrath of God ; f grhe knows_iL. 
is now~turne"d away frwiHrim, and looks upon Himjno mQr£Las-- 
an ang$^ Judge, but as a loving father" He cannot fear the 
devil, knowing he has ' no power, except it be given him from 
above.' He fears not hell , being an heir of the kingdom of 
heaven : consequently, he has no fear of death , by reason 
whereof he was in time past, for so many years, ' subject to 
bondage.' Rather, knowing that ' if the earthly house of this 
tabernacle be dissolved, he hath a building of God — a house not 
made with hands, eternal in the heavens , he groaneth earnestly, 
desiring to be clothed upon with that house which is from 
heaven.' He groans to shake off this house of earth, that 
' mortality ' may be ' swallowed up of life ' ; knowing that 
God ' hath wrought him for the selfsame thing , who hath also 
given him the earnest of His Spirit.' 

5. And ' where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty ' ; 
liberty, not only from guilt and fear, but from sin, from that 
heaviest of all yokes, that basest of all bondage. His labour 
is not now in vain. The snare is broken, and he is delivered. 
He not only strives, but likewise prevails , he not only fights, 
but conquers also. ' Henceforth he does not serve sin ' 
(chap. vi. 6, &c). He is ' dead unto sin, and alive unto God ' ; 
' sin doth not now reign,' even f in his mortal body,' nor doth 
he ' obey it in the desires thereof.' He does not ' yield his 
members as instruments of unrighteousness unto sin, but as 
instruments of righteousness unto God.' For ' being now 
made free from sin, he is become the servant of righteousness.' 

6. Thus ' having peace with God through our Lord Jesus 
Christ,' ' rejoicing in hope of the glory of God,' and having 
power over all sin, over every evil desire, and temper, and 
word, and work, he is a living witness of the ' glorious liberty 
of the sons of God ' , all of whom, being partakers of like 
precious faith, bear record with one voice, ' We have received 
the Spirit of adoption, whereby we cry, Abba, Father ! ' 

7. It is this Spirit which continually ' worketh in them, 


194 Sermon IX 

both to will and to do of His good pleasure.' It is He that 
sheds the love of God abroad in their hearts, and the love of all 
mankind ; thereby purifying their hearts from the love of the 
world, from the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eye, and the 
pride of life. It is by Him they are delivered from anger and 
pride, from all vile and inordinate affections. In consequence, 
they are delivered from evil words and works, from all unholi- 
ness of conversation , doing no evil to any child of man, and 
being zealous of all good works. 

8. To sum up all : the natural man neithexiears.nox.ioves_ 
God, one under the law fears, one under grace loves Him^. The 
; nrst has no light in the things of God, but walks in utter dark- 
ness , the second sees the painful light of hell; the tFir37 
the joyous light of heaven. He that sleeps in death has a 
false peace , he that is awakened has no peace at all ; he that 
believes has true peace, — the peace of God filling and ruling 
his heart. The Heathen, baptized or unbaptized, hath a 
fancied liberty, which is indeed licentiousness , the Jew, or one 
under the Jewish dispensation, is in heavy, grievous bondage ; 
the Christian enjoys the true glorious liberty of the sons of 
God. An unawakened child of the devil sins willingly; one 
that is awakened sins unwillingly , a child of God ' sinneth 
not/ but ' keepeth himself, and the wicked one toucheth him 
not.' To conclude the natural man neither conquers nor 
fights ; the man under the law fights with sin, but cannot 
conquer , the man under grace fights and conquers, yea, is 
more than conqueror through Him that loveth him.' 

IV i. From this plain account of the threefold state of 
man, the natural^ihe legal, and the evangelical, it appears that 
it is not sufficient to divide mankind into slncereahd insincere. 
A man may be sincere in any of these states , not only when 
he has the ' Spirit of adoption,' but while he has the ' spirit of 

IV. i. The discussion of Sincerity ment that if an unbeliever ' perse- 

in the Minutes, May 13, 1746, Q. 12 vere therein, God will infallibly give 

ss., should be read in connexion with him faith.' 
this paragraph ; especially the state- 

The Spirit of Bondage and of Adoption 195 

bondage unto fear ' ; yea, while he has neither this fear, nor 
love. For undoubtedly there may be sincere Heathens, as 
well as sincere Jews or Christians. This circumstance, then, 
does by no means prove that a man is in a state of acceptance 
with God. 

' Examine yourselves, therefore,' not only whether ye are 
sincere, but ' whether ye be in the faith.' Examine narrowly 
(for it imports you much), what is the ruling principle in your 
soul ? Is it the lo ve of JjocT? Is it the leaFoT G06T? Or IslF 
nStEerjohlTnOT the other ? Is it not rather the love of the 
world ? the lavToTpIe^sufeTrrr gain ? of ease, or reputation ? 
If so, you are not come so far as a Jew. You are but a Heathen 
still. Have you heaven in your heart ? Have you the Spirit 
of adoption, ever crying, Abba, Father ? Or do you cry unto 
God, as ' out of the belly of hell,' overwhelmed with sorrow 
and fear ? Or are you a stranger to this whole affair, and 
cannot imagine what I mean ? Heathen, pull off the mask ! 
Thou hast never put on Christ ! Stand barefaced ! Look 
up to heaven ; and own before Him that liveth for ever 
and ever, thou hast no part either among the sons or servants 
of God ! 

Whosoever thou art, Dost thou commit sin, or dost thou 
not ? If thou dost, is it willingly or unwillingly ? In either 
case, God hath told thee whose thou art ' He that com- 
mitteth sin is of the devil.' If thou committest it willingly, 
thou art his faithful servant : he will not fail to reward thy 
labour. If unwillingly, still thou art his servant. God deliver 
thee out of his hands ! 

Art thou daily fighting against all sin ? and daily more 

;than conqueror? I acknowledge thee for a child of God. 

O stand fast in thy glorious liberty ! Art thou fighting, but 

,not conquering? striving for the mastery, but not able to 

.attain? Then thou art not yet a believer in Christ; but 

follow on, and thou shalt know the Lord. Art thou not 

fighting at all, but leading an easy, indolent, fashionable life ? 

^0 how hast thou dared to name the name of Christ, only to 

fimake it a reproach among the Heathen ? Awake, thou 

sleeper ! Call upon thy God, before the deep swallow thee up ! 


Sermon IX 

2. Perhaps one reason why so many think of themselves 
more highly than they ought to think, why they do not discern 
what state they are in, is, because these several states of soul 
are often mingled together, and in some measure meet in one 
and the same person. Thus experience shows, that the legal 
state, or state of fear, is frequently mixed with the natural ; 
for few men are so fast asleep in sin, but they are sometimes 
more or less awakened. As the Spirit of God does not ' wait 
for the call of man/ so, at some times He will be heard* He 
puts them in fear, so that, for a season at least, the Heathen 
' know themselves to be but men/ They feel the burden of 
sin, and earnestly desire to flee from the wrath to come. But 
not long : they seldom suffer the arrows of conviction to go 
deep into their souls ; but quickly stifle the grace of God, 
and return to their wallowing in the mire. 

In like manner, the evangelical state, or state of love, is 
frequently mixed with the legal. For few of those who have 
the spirit of bondage and fear remain always without hope. 
The wise and gracious God rarely suffers this , ' for He remem- 
bereth that we are but dust ' , and He willeth not that ' the 
flesh should fail before Him, or the spirit which He hath made.' 
Therefore at such times as He seeth good, He gives a dawning 
of light unto them that sit in darkness. He causes a part of 
His goodness to pass before them, and shows He is a ' God that 
heareth the prayer.' They see the promise, which is by faith 
in Christ Jesus, though it be yet afar off , and hereby they are 
encouraged to ' run with patience the race which is set before 

2. A most important paragraph, 
which saves the whole sermon from 
the sense of unreality and remoteness 
from experience which it otherwise 
gives. The descriptions of the 
natural, the legal, and the evangeli- 
cal state are not descriptions of 
men, but of phases of experience 
rarely or never found in their purity. 
' These several states of soul are 
often mingled together, and in some 

measure meet in one and the same 
person.' O wise and practical 
teacher ! The key to Wesley's ap- 
parent inconsistencies is this : J&L. 
first worked out his theology b y 
"' bliicL l o gftTal deduction fiom the 
^Scriptu res ; and t hen he corrected 
HRT^VrvnTonginno ! by the test of actual 
_exp_erience. t£s class-meetings were 
a laboratory in which he verified or 
modified his hypotheses. 

The Spirit of Bondage and of Adoption 197 

3. Another reason why many deceive themselves, is, because 
they do not consider how far a man may go, and yet be in a 
natural, or, at best, a legal state. A man may be of a com- 
passionate and a benevolent temper ; he may be affable, 
courteous, generous, friendly , he may have some degree of 
meekness, patience, temperance, and of many other moral 
virtues. He may feel many desires of shaking off all vice, 
and of attaining higher degrees of virtue. He may abstain 
from much evil ; perhaps from all that is grossly contrary to 
justice, mercy, or truth. He may do much good, may feed 
the hungry, clothe the naked, relieve the widow and fatherless. 
He may attend public worship, use prayer in private, read 
many books of devotion ; and yet, for all this, he may be a 
mere natural man, knowing neither himself nor God , equally 
a stranger to the spirit of fear and to that of love , having 
neither repented, nor believed the gospel. 

But suppose there were added to all this a deep conviction 
of sin, with much fear of the wrath of God ; vehement desires 
to cast off every sin, and to fulfil all righteousness ; frequent 
rejoicing in hope, and touches of love often glancing upon the 
soul ; yet neither do these prove a man to be under grace, to 
have true, living, Christian faith, unless the Spirit of adoption 
abide in his heart, unless he can continually cry, ' Abba, 
Father i ' 

4. Beware, then, thou who art called by the name of Christ, 
that thou come not short of the mark of thy high calling. 
Beware thou rest not, either in a natural state, with too many 
that are accounted good Christians , or in a legal state, wherein 
those who are highly esteemed of men are generally content 
to live and die. Nay, but God hath prepared better things 
for thee, if thou follow on till thou attain. Thou art not called 
to fear and tremble, like devils ; but to rejoice and love, like 
the angels of God. ' Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with 
all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind, 
and with all thy strength,' Thou shalt ' rejoice evermore ' ; 
thou shalt ' pray without ceasing ' ; thou shalt ' in everything 
give thanks/ Thou shalt do the will of God on earth as 
it is done in heaven. O prove thou ' what is that good, and 

198 Sermon IX 

acceptable, and perfect will of God ' ! Now present thyself ' a 
living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God ' ! ' Whereunto thou 
hast already attained, hold fast,' by ' reaching forth unto those 
things which are before ' , until ' the God of peace make thee 
perfect in every good work, working in thee that which is 
well-pleasing in His sight, through Jesus Christ : to whom be 
glory for ever and ever ! Amen ! ' 



This sermon would seem to have been written for the edition of 1746. 
In Sermon XLV (written and published in 1767), ii. 3, Wesley quotes 
from this sermon, and says, ' After twenty years' further considera- 
tion, I see no cause to retract any part of this.' I find no record of 
its having been preached until August 11, 1753, where it stands in 
the sermon list at the end of the Standard edition of the Journal 
against St. Gennys, along with J as. i. 27. Wesley reached St. Gennys 
on Saturday evening, August 11, after preaching at Camelford at 
noon, and getting wet through in ' such a shower of rain as I never 
saw before in Europe.' On Sunday the 12th, ' I never saw so many 
people in this church ; nor did I ever before speak so plainly to them. 
They hear ; but when will they feel ? ' As no texts are set down in 
the list for August 12, I take it that the two put down for August 1 1 
are those that he preached from on the Sunday. ' Rom. viii. 15, &c,' 
is set down as the subject of the morning exercise at the society 
meeting at Bristol on Tuesday, March 10, 1741. Mr. Curnock says of 
these morning exercises : ' For this duty he prayed and robed. Usually 
he went fasting. Returning to his rooms, he drank chocolate or tea, 
and at once proceeded to write in his journal, or in sermon form, or 
in a paper for use in society meetings, the substance of the exposition 
that morning given ' (Journal, II. p. 354 «.). This note refers to the 
meetings at the Foundery, but doubtless those at Bristol were on the 
same lines. This was probably the first form of this sermon, which 
was elaborated and revised for the edition of 1746. It is rather a 
tractate than a sermon, and was intended for publication, not for 
pulpit delivery. But whilst it does not seem to have been often 
preached, the doctrine which it defends formed part of almost every 
sermon of Wesley's in these early years. For example, in Sermon I, 
ii. 4, it is specified as one of the privileges of salvation by faith ; and 
in Sermon IV, i. 3, we are told that the Christian of the apostolic 
age ' rejoiced in that witness of God's Spirit with his spirit that_ 
wasfachild of God/ 


200 Sermon X 

This great doctrine, the clear statement of which was one of the 
most important services rendered to the Church by Wesley, had been 
obscured by the Sacramentarian teaching of the Romish Church, 

*aflfl exagg erated by the Mystics. The Westminster Confession had 
allowed it to be an ordinary gift of the Spirit to the believer; but 
stated that he may have to ' wait long and contend with many diffi- 
culties before he be partaker of it.' On t he oth er hand, it taught that 
assurance, when onc e attained, is indef ectible. The Anglican Articles 
are vague";**" in Art. "XVII it is said t hat those who through grace 
obey the calling of God * be made sons oFGod by adoption ' ; b ut there 
is no reference fo" the "direct witness of the Spirit^ Bishop Pearson, 
however, in Exposition of Creed, Art. VIII, says, ' It is the office of 
the Holy Ghost to assure us of the adoption of sons. . As, there- 
fore, we are born again by the Spirit, and receive from Him our regenera- 
tion, so we are also assured by the Spirit of our adoption ' ; and this 
passage is quoted in proof thereof. It was not from his own Church, 
but from the Moravians, and especially from the teaching of Peter 
Bohler, that Wesley in the early part of 1738 learnt t hat one of the__ 
fruits of true faith in Christ was ' constant pe ace, arising from a sense 
of forgiveness. ' I was quite amazed,' he says (Journal, May 24, 
1 73$), ' alld 100"£e"d-Lrpon it as a new gospel.' Then on May 24 came 
the great experience of realized salvation ; ' an assurance was given 
me that He had taken away my~sins, even mine, and saved me from 
the law of sin and death.' For more than six months, however, he 
suffered from doubt and frequent darkness ; but when he was once 
fairly embarked on his evangelical mission, they disappeared and 
troubled him no more. On September 3, 1739, he was much encour- 
aged by his mother's experience. At first she had been fearful that 
he had erred in this matter ; she told him she had scarce heard such 
a thing mentioned as the having God's Spirit bearing witness with 
our spirit ; and she had never dared to ask it for herself. But two 
or three weeks before this conversation, as she was receiving the 
Sacrament, she knew that God for Christ's sake had forgiven her all 
her sins. , Her father, Dr. Annesley, had had this experience, she 
said, for 'over^f o Y T y . yearsriSiirhad never p reaBTeT^^O^ers.^T s 
early as January 25, 1740, Wesley says, ' I never yet knew one soul 
thus saved without what you call the faith of assurance ^LJE^J*- 
sure confidence that by the merits of Christ he was reconciled to the 

""favour of God.' In the Minutes of '"1744^' answeFto^T^, ' Does any 
"one believe, who' has not the witness in himself, or any longer than 
he sees, loves, obeys God ? ' he says, ' We apprehend not.' In Minutes 
of 1745 he dares not positively say that there are not exempt cases, 
and allows that there may be infinite degrees in seeing God. In 1746 
he admits that it is hard to judge of individual cases, as we do not 
know all the circumstances ; but he affirms that all sincere persons 

The Witness of the Spirit 201 

who are striving for this assurance will surely find it before they 
die. In the Farther Appeal (1745), Part I, he defends this doctrine 
against the attack of the Bishop of Lichfield at full length ; and again 
in 1747 in his Letters XLI and XLII to Mr, John Smith (who was 
probably Thomas Seeker). 

In 1747, a month after the Conference, he writes to Charles : f By 
justifying faith, I mean that faith which whosoever hath not is under 
the wrath and curse of God. By a sense of pardon I mean a distinct, 
explicit assurance that my sins are forgiven. I allow (1) That there 
is such an explicit assurance ; (2) That it is the common privilege of 
real Christians ; (3) That it is the proper Christian faith which purifies 
the heart and overcomes the world. JBnt I cannot allow that justi- 
■iym*g"farEh _ rs such an assurance, or necessarily connected therewith. 
Because, if justifying faith necessarily implies such an explicit assur- 
ance of pard on, then every one who has it not, and every one so long 
as he has it not, is under the wrath and curse of God. But this is 
a supposition contrary to Scripture and experience (Isa. i, 10 and 
Acts x. 34). Ag ain, the assertion that justifying faith fo a **«»■" sq of 
pardon is contrary to reason, it is flatl y absurd. F or how can a sense 
of ouTTra^ng^received pardon be the condition of our receiving it ? ' 
In other words, we do not believe, because we have recdLved_thte_. 
^witness of the Spirit ; but normally we receive the ^wUness_of .JJifi. 
Spirit as soon as we believe. """" 

"This doctrine Wesley held and preached to the end ; but experi- 
ence led him to discard more explicitly his first view that there could 
be no salvation without assurance. Thus in his answer to Prof. 
Rutherforth in 1768 he says : ' I believe a consciousness of being in the 
favour of God (which I do not term full assurance, since it is frequently 
weakened, nay, perhaps interrupted, by returns of doubt or fear) is 
the common privilege of Christians, fearing God and working righteous- 
ness. Yet I do not affirm there are no exceptions to this general 
rule, , , ,JTherefore I have not, for many years, thought a conscious-_ 
nessof acceptance to be essential to justifying faith.' 

The opposition which was aroused by Wesley's teaching on this 
point was due to the not unnatural reaction, after the Restoration, 
from the extravagant claims of many of the Puritans to special divine 
illumination. Thus Butler in Hudibras i. 1 describes Ralpho, the 
squire, who stands for the Independents, as getting his knowledge 
from the New Light : 

' Whate'er men speak by this new light 
Still they are sure to be i' th' right ; 
'Tis a dark lanthorn of the Spirit 
Which none see by but those that bear it ; 
A light that falls down from on high 
For Spiritual trades to cozen by.' 

202 Sermon X 

If a man could claim a direct illumination of the Spirit on one point, 
why not on many, or all, others ? Thus the door would be thrown 
open to all kinds of wild and extravagant ideas, against which it 
would be impossible to argue, because their authors held them to be 
the result of direct divine inspiration. Many good people, too, like 
Mrs. Susanna Wesley, feared to be presumptuous if they claimed such 
a gift. And when to this is added the unspiritual character of the 
period, and its passion for cold correctness and good form, it is easy 
to see why the early Methodists were branded as enthusiasts and 
madmen, chiefly because they maintained the possibility and realiza- 
tion of the direct witness of the Spirit. As Dr. Cutten {Psychological 
Phenomena of Christianity, p. 234) says, ' Pentecost needed a defence 
against the charge of drunkenness.' 

Recent studies in the psychology of the spiritual life confirm Wesley's 
teaching, though they do not always use his language. They agree in 
holding that in some way there must be a direct communication of the 
divine to the human spirit for the full development of the higher life. 
Thus Prof. Boyce Gibson, of the Melbourne University (who bears two 
names that will always be memorable in Methodism), says of Rudolf 
Eucken: ' Eucken s own explicit conviction is that the immediate 
revelation of this all-inclusive spiritual life to ours, and its power to 
maintain itself steadily in presence of the perils and limitations of our 
human nature, is an axiomatic fact, apart from which there can be 
no root of truth or of reason in our lives at all. Itjs^mjtomtoiacy^ 
of our life with God's that Eucken- finds- the newlmmediacy that can 
aiorre~-satisfy the life that has broken from the immediacy -oisensei. 
andlhspire our human Irailty for its redemptive mission in theworlsL- 
"BergsorTholds thatrtlie ^ TiipesT^hmg in man is his ' susceptibility for 
God,' which culminates in a ' real union of being ' with God. Von 
Haering {Ethics of Christian Life, p. 197) says : ' The assurance of sal- 
vation is a present experience of blessedness and a certain hope 
of blessedness, and is present blessedness in fellowship with God. 
Dr. Cutten, in the work cited above, p. 250, says, in reference to the 
theory that the experience of the witness of the Spirit is due to sug- 
gestion : ' To say that it is suggestion only is doing violence to the 
united testimony of thousands whose evidence is as valuable as any 
in the land.' 

The Spirit itself beareth witness with our spirit, that we are the children 

of God. — Rom. viii. 16. 

1 . How many vain men, not understanding what they spake, 
neither whereof they affirmed, have wrested this scripture to 
the great loss, if not the destruction, of their souls ! How 

The Witness of the Spirit 203 

many have mistaken the voice of their own imagination for 
this witness of the Spirit of God, and thence idly presumed 
they were the children of God, while they were doing the works 
of the devil ! These are truly and properl y enthusia sts ; 
and, indeed, in the worst sense of the word. But witn what: 
difficulty are they convinced thereof, especially if they have 
drank deep into that spirit of error. All endeavours to bring 
them to the knowledge of themselves, they will then account 
fighting against God ; and that vehemence and impetuosity 
of spirit, which. they call ' contending earnestly for the faith/ 
sets them so far above all the usual methods of conviction, 
that we may well say, ' With men it is impossible.' 

2. Who then can be sllrprised, 1! many r^sonable men, 
seeing the dreadful effects of this delusion, and labouring to 
keep at the utmost distance from it, should sometimes lean 
toward another extreme ? — if they are not forward to believe 
any who speak of having this witness, concerning which others 
have so grievously erred ? — if they are almost ready to set all 
down for enthusiasts who use the expressions which have been 
so terribly abused ? — yea, if they should question whether the 
witness or testimony here spoken of be the privilege of ordinary 
Christians, and not, rather, one of those extraordinary gifts 
which they suppose belonged only to the apostolic age ? 

3. But is there any necessity laid upon us of running either 
into one extreme or the other ? May we not steer a middle 
course — keep a sufficient distance from that spirit of error 
and enthusiasm, without denying the gift of God, and giving 

Par. 2. Gwatkin, in jThe Know- tolic age; his words are: ' The fore - 

ledge of God, ii. 242, says : ' There mentioned testimony of the Spirit 

was some reason for the English dis- was the public testimony of miracu- 

trust of what in the eighteenth cen- lous gifts ; and consequently the 

tury was called Enthusiasm. A witness of the - Spirit that we are the... 

very little study of John Wesley as "*cT5T3ren oTT^dc annoF possibly be 

a politician or as a general observer "tCppITeU to tSe"p7rvate tHfmioTTy HTf-^ 

will show one of the sanest minds of TfTe""Spirit" given~"to"ouf own con- 

the eighteenth century.' sciences, as"is pretended by mo3ern 

The Bishop of Lichfield, in a charge enthusiasts.' Wesley answers him— 

published in 1744, maintains that ~"TfnzKe'~F ur thirr "A ppeal, published in 
the witness of the Spirit was one of 1745. 
the extraordinary gifts of the Apos- 


Sermon X 

up the great privilege of His children ? Surely we may. In 
order thereto, let us consider, in the presence and fear of God,— 

I. What is this witness or testimony of our spirit; 


I. I. Let us first consider, what is the witness or testimony 
of our spirit. But here I cannot but desire all those who are 
for swallowing up the testimony of the Spirit of God in the 
rational testimony of our own spirit, to observe, that in this 
text the Apostle is so far from speaking of the testimony of 
our own spirit only, that it may be questioned whether he speaks 
of it at all — whether he does not speak only of the testimony 
of God's Spirit. It does not appear but the original text may 
be fairly understood thus. The Apostle had just said, in the 
preceding verse, ' Ye have received the Spirit of adoption, 
whereby we cry, Abba, Father ' , and immediately subjoins, 
Avrb to Hvevfia (some copies read, to clvto Jlvevfia) (rvfifiapTvpel 
T<p irvevfjuaTL rj/xwv oti eafiev Teicva Geov , which may be trans- 
lated, ' The same Spirit beareth witness to our spirit, that we 
are the children of God ' (The preposition o-vv only denoting, 
that He witnesses this at the same time that He enables us to 
cry, Abba, Father). But I contend not ; seeing so many other 
texts, with the experience of all real Christians, sufficiently 

I. i. ' The same Spirit.' This is 
the rendering in the Notes on the 
New Testament ; but it is certainly 
wrong. I cannot imagine what 
copies Wesley found with the read- 
ing rb aiirb IJvevfjLa (the same Spirit) ; 
Tischendorf does not even mention 
any such variant in his Eighth 
Critical Edition. Avrb rb lived /xa can 
only mean the Spirit Himself, the 

neuter gender being, of course, due 
to purely grammatical reasons. 
Then the suggestion that avfifiaprvpet 
means ' that He witnesses this at the 
same time that He enables us to cry, 
Abba, Father - is absurd. Obviously 
Wesley did not himself feel quite 
sure of his ground — ' I contend 
not ' I It was a pity to spoil this 
argument by such a weak start. 

The Witness of the Spirit 205 

evince, that there is in every believer, both the testimony of 
God's Spirit, and the testimony of his own, that he is a child 
of God. 

2. With regard to the latter, the foundation thereof is laid 
in those numerous texts of Scripture which describe the marks 
of the children of God , and that so plain, that he which 
runneth may read them. These are also collected together, 
and placed in the strongest light, by many both ancient and 
modern writers. If any need farther light, he may receive it 
by attending on the ministry of God's word ; by meditating 
thereon before God in secret ; and by conversing with those 
who have the knowledge of His ways. And by the reason or 
understanding that God has given him, which religion was 
de signed not t o extinguish, but to perfect — according to that 
of the Apostle, ' Brethren, be not children in understanding ; 
in malice * or wickedness ' be ye children , but in under- 
standing be ye men ' (1 Cor. xiv. 20) — every man applying 
those scriptural marks to himself may know whether he is a 
child of God. Thus, if he know, first, ' as many as are led by 
the Spirit of God,' into all holy tempers and actions, ' they 
areTfhe sons of God ' (for which he has the infallible assurance 
of holy writ) ; secondly, I am thus ' led by the Spirit of God ' ; 
he will easily conclude, ' Therefore I am a se>n of God.' . 

3. Agreeable to this are all those plain declarations of St. 
John, in his First Epistle : ' Hereby we know that we do 
know Him, if we keep His commandments ' (chap. ii. 3). 
' Whoso keepeth His word, in him verily is the love of God 
perfected : hereby know we that we are in Him ' ; that we are 
indeed lEte children of God (verse 5). ' If ye know that He is 
righteous, ye know that every one that doeth righteousness 
is born of Him ' (verse 29). ' We know that we have passed 
from death unto life, because we love the brethren ' (chap. iii. 
14). ' Hereby we know that we are of the truth, and shall 

2. ' Not to extinguish, but to per- Christianity. In a letter to his 
feet.' An oblique hit at the Mystics,"*" brother Sahlffe?r November 23, 1736, 
to whose teachings Wesley had been he says, ' They have absolutely re- 
drawn when he was in Savannah, nounced their reason and under- 
but whom he soon found to be ' the standing.' 
most dangerous of the enemies .I.0JL 

2o6 Sermon X 

assure our hearts before Him ' (verse 19) ; namely, because 
we ' love one another, not in word, neither in tongue, but in 
deed and in truth/ ' Hereby know we that we dwell in Him, 
because He hath given us of His ' loving ' Spirit ' (chap. iv. 13). 
And, ' Hereby we know that He abideth in us, by the ' obedient 
' Spirit which He hath given us ' (chap. iii. 24) . 

4. It is highly probable there never were any children of 
God, from the beginning of the world unto this day, who were 
farther advanced in the grace of God, and the knowledge of 
our Lord Jesus Christ, than the Apostle John, at the time 
when he wrote these words, and the fathers in Christ to whom 
he wrote. Notwithstanding which, it is evident, both the 
Apostle himself, and all those pillars in God's temple, were 
very far from despising these marks of their being the children 
of God , and that they applied them to their own souls for 
the confirmation of their faith. Yet all this is no other than 
rational evidence, t he witness^of our spirit, our reason or 
understanding. It all resolves into this : Those who have 
these marks are children of God : but we have these marks : 
therefore we are children of God. 

5. But how does it appear, that we have these marks? 
^This is a question which still remains. How does it appear, 

that we do love God and our neighbour, and that we keep His 
commandments ? Observe, that the meaning of the question 
is, How does it appear to ourselves, not to others ? _ I would" 
ask him, "then, that proposes this question, How does it appear 
to you, that you are alive, and that you are now in ease, and 
not in pain ? Are you not immediately conscious of it ?^B£j 
the same immediate ^con sciou sness^ yp " w i'fT know it ' ffiuf soul_ 
is alive to God ; if you are saved from the pain of proud wrath, 
and have the ease 01 a meek and quiet spirit. By the same 
means you cannot but perceive if you love, rejoice, and delight 


5. The essential point is that one the introduction to the new world 

who has by regeneration received of spiritual experiences, it must be 

the gift of life in Christ cannot but accompanied by new perceptions and 

be conscious of it. Whether regenera- new powers; and of these the re- 

tion be regarded as a new birth, or cipient must be conscious. One 

as a resurrection from the death of thing he knows, that, whereas he wa3 

sin to the life of righteousness, or as blind, now he sees. 

The Witness of the Spirit 207 

in God. By the same you must be directly assured if you 
love your neighbour as yourself ; if you are kindly affectioned 
to all mankind, and full of gentleness and long-suffering. 
And with regard to the outward mark of the children of God, 
which is, according to St. John, the keeping His command- 
ments, you undoubtedly know in your own breast, if, by the 
grace of God, it belongs to you. Your conscience informs you 
from day to day, if you do not take the name of God within 
your lips, unless with seriousness and devotion, with reverence 
and godly fear ; if you remember the Sabbath-day to keep it 
holy ; if you honour your father and mother ; if you do to all as 
you would they should do unto you ; if you possess your body 
in sanctification and honour , and if, whether you eat or drink, 
you are temperate therein, and do all to the glory of God. 

6. Now _this_ is properly the testimony of our own spirit ; 
even the testimony of our own conscience, that God hath given 
us "to be holy of heart, and holy in outward conversation. It 
isa consciousness of our having received, in and by the Spirit 
of adoption, the tempers mentioned in the Word of God, as 
belonging to His adopted children , even a loving heart toward 
God, and toward all mankind , hanging with child-like confi- 
dence on God our Father, desiring nothing but Him, casting all 
our care upon Him, and embracing every child of man with 
earnest, tender affection, [so as to be ready to lay down our life 
for our brother, as Christ laid down His life for us, — ] a conscious- 
ness that we are inwardly conformed, by the Spirit of God, to the 
image of His Son, and that we walk before Him in justice, mercy, 
and truth, doing the things which are pleasing in His sight. 

7. But what is tjbat testimony of God's Spirit, which is 
superactdScr to, and conjoined with, this? "How does He 
' bear witness with our spirit that we are the children of God ' ? 
It is hard to find words in the language of men to explain ' the 
deep things of God.' Indeed, there are none that will 

7. The first sentence of this defini- hath loved us, or that our sins are 

tion is unexceptionable ; the state- blotted out. These conclusions are 

ment of the text is that the Spirit rather inferences from His direct 

bears witness ' that we are the chil- witness to our adoption, than the 

dren of God.' But the Spirit does subjects of direct revelation apart 

not directly bear witness that Christ from that. 

2o8 Sermon X 

adequately express what the children of God experience. But 
perhaps one might say (desiring any who are taught of God to 
correct, to soften, or strengthen the expression), the te stimo ny 
of the Spirit is an inward impression on the soul, wherebyTKe" 
Spirit of God" directly witnesses to my spirit, that fam a cMd 
of God ; that Jesus Christ hath loved me, and given Himself 
for me~T~and that all my sins are blotted out, and I, even I, 
am reconciled to God. 

8 JL jThat thistestimony of the Spirit of God must n eeds, in 
the very nature of things, be antecedent to the "te stimony of" 
"our own spirit, may appear from this single consideration. We 
must be holy of heart, and holy in life,nbefore we can "Be con- 
scious that we are so , before we can have the testimony of our 
spirit, that we are inwardly and outwardly holy. But we must 
love God, before we can be holy at all ; this being the root of 
all holiness. Now we cannot love God , till we know He loves 
us. ' We love kim, because He first loved us/""" AncTwe carP 

lioTKow His pardoning love to us, till His Spirit witnesses it 
to our spirit. Since, therefore, this testimony of His Spirit 
must precede the love of God and all holiness, of consequence 
it must precede our inward consciousness thereofTj)r the 
testimony of our spirit concerning themT 

9. Then, and not till then — when the Spirit of God beareth 
that witness to our spirit, ' God hath loved thee, and given 

8. Wesley makes the mistake of a vital relati on between two p ersons, 
regarding adoption and regeneration 'one oi whom begets and the other is 
as two distinct operations of the begotten in the image of his father ; 
Holy Spirit ; whereas they are two or it may be regarded as a legal re- 
aspects of the same thing, distin- lation, in which both parties accept 
guishable in thought but not in fact, certain responsibilities, and are en- 
Dr. Pope (iii. 3) says : * No terms titled to certain rights, the father 
are more strictly correlative than to obedience, the son to protection 

^regeneration „and, adoption. They and heirship. St. John prefers the 

describe the same blessing under two ' former, which is the deeper aspect 
aspects * J the form er '"ref efrt ngTSTEe"* of the matter, as being a natural 
filial character, thelatter to'ThlTmTaP"* process ; St. Paul emphasizes the 

* privilege. """But "trtey "are notihvLsT latter, which is artificial and arises 

closely "connected as cause and effect ; from legal enactment. It must be 

they are co-ordinate, and the link remembered that adoption was very 

between them is the common son- common in the communities of the 

ship.' Sonship may be regarded as Roman Empire ; and the procedure 

The Witness of the Spirit 209 

His own Son to be the propitiation for thy sins , the Son of 
God hath loved thee, and hath washed thee from thy sins in 
His blood ' — ' we love God, because He first loved us ' ; and, 
for His sake, we love our brother also. And of this we cannot 
but be conscious to ourselves , we ' know the things that are 
freely given to us of God.' We know that we love God, and 
keep His commandments , and ' hereby also we know that we 
are of God.' This is that testimony of our own spirit, which, 
so long as we continue to love God and keep His command- 
ments, continues joined with the testimony of God's Spirit, 
' that we are the children of God.' 

10. Not that I would by any means be understood, by any- 
thing which has been spoken concerning it, to exclude the 
operation of the Spirit of God, even from the testimony of our 
own spirit. In no wise. It is He that not only worketh in 
us every manner of thing that is good, but also shines upon His 
own work, and clearly shows what He has wrought. Accord- 
ingly, this is spoken of by St. Paul, as one great end of our 
receiving the Spirit, ' that we may know the things which are 
freely given to us of God ' : that He may strengthen the 
testimony of our conscience, touching our ' simplicity and godly 
sincerity ' ; and give us to discern, in a fuller and stronger 
light, that we now do the things which please Him. 

11. Should it still be inquired, ' How does the Spirit of 

was prescribed by law. The boy adopted into the family of God, with 
who was to be adopted was legally all its rights of access to the Father 
the slave of his natural father ; it and co-heirship with his elder brother 
was first necessary, therefore, to re- Christ. Then he is sealed with t he 
deem him, and this was done in the Holy Spirit of promise, who bears_ 
presence of seven witnesses, who set"'" joint witness with his own spirit to ^ 
their seals to the document certify-" the whoie transaction. .This witness 
ing the transaction. Then the adop- TTsffimltaneous, ' not, as Wesley tries 
tive father touched the boy with to prove, successive. The Spirit_ 
the ritual wand, and said, ' I claim bears witnejs^jT^^jdEfiSEl!^^ 
this man as my son.' Thencefor- "lipTriFf and" the testimony is both 
ward he became legally his son, '"TomT^nd'several. Neither is ' afore 
entitled to a share in his inheritance, or after other.' The whole question 
and to take part in the sacrifices of of adoption is treated most illuminat- 
the family. So St. Paul describes ingly by my old school-fellow Dr. 
the believer as first redeemed from W. E. B. Ball in his St. Paul and the 
the bondage of the law, then as Roman Law. 
I— 1 4 

2io Sermon X 

God " bear witness with our spirit, that we are the childrg 
God/' so as to exclude all doubt, and evince the reality of 
sonship ? ' — the answer is clear from what has been obse] 
above. And first, as to the witness of our spirit : the soi 
intimately and evidently perceives when it loves, delights, 
rejoices in God, as when it loves and delights in anything 
earth. And it can no more doubt, whether it loves, deli| 
and rejoices or no, than whether it exists or no. If, there 
this be just reasoning, 

He that now loves God, that delights and rejoices in 
with an humble joy, an holy delight, and an obedient lov 
a child of God : 

But I thus love, delight, and rejoice in God , 

Therefore, I am a child of God : — 
Then a Christian can in no wise doubt of his being a chil 
God. Of the former proposition he has as full an assur 
as he has that the Scriptures are of God , and of his 
loving God, he has^an Jnj^ard^piOQf, wjjich is no thing sno 
seTf-^viffence. Thus, the testimony >- of our own spirit is 

* uie most intimate conviction manifested to our hearts, in 
a manner, as beyond all reasonable doubt to evince the re, 
of our sonship. 

12. The manner how the divine testimony is manifested 
the heart, I do not take upon me to explain. Such knowl 
is too wonderful and excellent for me : I cannot attain 
it. The wind bloweth, and I hear the sound thereof ; b 
cannot tell how it cometh, or whither it goeth. As no 
knoweth the things of a man, save the spirit of a man th 
in him, so themanner of the things, of God ^ knoweth. no_ 
save the Spirit of GodT^But the fact we know , namely, 
the Spirit of God does give a believer such a testimony o 
adoption, that while it is present to the soul, he can no i 

,■ d ^ ul3rtte reality rrf his sonship, than he can doubTof the" 
ing of the sun, w hile he stands in the full blaze of his beam 1 

12. Many of the first Methodists Wesley, whilst not questioninj 

claimed to have received the witness genuineness of these experit 

by an audible voice, or a flash of most sanely refuses to limit the 

light, or a vivid dream, or the appli- One of Israel to any parti 

cation of some passage of Scripture. method of self-revelation. 

The Witness of the Spirit 211 

II. 1. How this joint testimony of God's Spirit and our 
spirit may be clearly and solidly distinguished from the pre- 
sumption of a natural mind, and from the delusion of the devil, 
is the next thing to be considered. And it highly imports 
all who desire the salvation of God, to consider it with the 
deepest attention, as they would not deceive their own souls. 
An error in this is generally observed to have the most fatal 
consequences : the rather, because he that errs, seldom dis- 
covers his mistake, till it is too late to remedy it. 

2. And, first, how is this testimony to be distinguished 
from the presumption of a natural mind ? It is certain, one 
who was never convinced of sin is always ready to flatter him- 
self, and to think of himself, especially in spiritual things, more 
highly than he ought to think. And hence, it is in no wise 
strange, if one who is vainly puffed up by his fleshly mind, 
when he hears of this privilege of true Christians among whom 
he undoubtedly ranks himself, should soon work himself up 
into a persuasion that he is already possessed thereof. Such 
instances now abound in the world, and have abounded in all 
ages. How then may the real testimony of the Spirit with 
our spirit be distinguished from this damning presumption ? 

3. I answer, the holy Scriptures abound with marks, whereby 
the one may be distinguished from the other. They describe, 
in the plainest manner, the circumstances which go before, 
which accompany, and which follow, the true, genuine testi- 
mony of the Spirit of God with the spirit of a believer. Who- 
ever carefully weighs and attends to these will not need to put 
^affiiess ]f or light. He will perceive so wide a difference, with" 
respect to all these" "Between the real and the pretended witness 
of the Spirit, that there will be no danger, I might say, no 
possibility, of confounding the one with the other. 

4. By these, one who vainly presumes on the gift of God 
might surely know, if he really desired it, that he hath been 
hitherto ' given up to a strong delusion,' and suffered to believe 

II. 4- This test is normally a Sermon IX, ii. Wesley's converts, 
sound one, provided it is understood "especially 'in -'trie "earlier years of his 
that repentance need not. in volye±ks_ evangelical mission, were almost all 
agonizing experience described in people who had grown up in an 

212 Sermon X 

a lie. For the Scriptures lay down those clear, obvious marks, 
as preceding, accompanying, and following that gift, which a 
little reflection would convince him, beyond all doubt, were 
never found in his soul. For instance : the Scripture describes 
repenta nce, or conviction of sin, as constantly goin g before 
this" "witnesn5Tpardon. So, ' Repent , for the kingdom of 
heaven" is at "hand ^ Matt . hi. 2). 'Repent ye, and believe 
the gospel ' (Mark i. 15). ' Repent, and be baptized every one 
of you, for the remission of sins ' (Acts ii. 38). ' Repent ye 
therefore, and be converted, that your sins may be blotted 
out ' (Acts iii. 19). In conformity whereto, our Church also, 
continually places repentance before pardon, or the witn ess of 
it. ' He pardoneth and absolveth all them that trulyrepent, 
and unfeignedly believe His holy gospel.' ' Almighty God 
hath promised forgiveness of sins to all them who, with 
hearty repentance and true faith, turn unto Him.' But he is 
a stranger even to this repentance he hath ne ver known a 
broken and a contrite heart ' the remembrance of his sins ' 
was never ' grievous unto him,' nor ' the burden of them 
intolerable.' In repeating those words, he never meant what 

irreligious atmosphere, and had lived for an hour, what these religious or 

sinful lives. It was natural, therefore, irreligious struggles are. I always 

that he should take their experience knew God loved me, and I was always 

of repentance as the normal one. But grateful to Him for the world Ho 

in the case, happily not an infre- placed me in.' In my long associa- 

quent one, where children have been tion with theological students, both 

brought up in the nurture and ad- at Headingley and in Melbourne, I 

monition of the Lord in godly homes have found many who were brought 

and in the Sunday school, whilst up in godly homes, and who could 

there is generally a time when they not remember any time when they 

consciously and definitely surrender felt themselves estranged from God, 

themselves to the service of Christ, nor recall any definite experience of 

there will not be any such poignant conversion. Indeed, as Mr. Hellier 
sense of sin as is here contemplated ^_ always maintained, this ought to be 

"f>rrE. E. Hale, quoted in James's the normal experience of the children 

Varieties of Religious Experience, of godly parents ; he went so far as 

p. 82, testifies: ' Any man has an to say (Life, p. 344), 'JDiere n£edJ2g_ 

advantage, not to be estimated, who no days in the life of 'our children 

is born, as I was, into a family where """without salvation.* ^„_: """""""" 

the religion is simple and rational ; ' The quotations are (1) from the 

who is trained in the theory of such Absolution in the Order for Morning 

a religion, so that he never knows, Prayer ; (2) from the Absolution in 

The Witness of the Spirit 


he said ; he merely paid a compliment to God. And were it 
only from the want of this previous work of God, he hath too 
great reason to believe that he hath grasped a mere shadow, 
and never yet known the real privilege of the sons of God. 

5. Again the Scriptures describe the being born of God, 
which must precede the witness that we are His children,_as a 
vasj_„and^ mighty change ; a^change ' from darkness to light,' 
as well as ' from the power of Satan unto God ' ; as a ' passing 
from death unto life/ a resurrection from the dead. Thus 
the Apostle to the Ephesians : * You hath He quickened, who 
were dead in trespasses and sins ' (ii. 1). And again, ' When 
we were dead in sins, He hath quickened us together with 
Christ, and hath raised us up together, and made us sit 
together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus ' (verses 5, 6). But 
what knoweth he, concerning whom we now speak, of any such 
change as this ? He is altogether unacquainted with this 
whole matter. This is a language which he does not under- 
stand. He tells you he always was a Christian. He knows no 
time whenlie~llati~need oT"slfcli"a change. By "this also, if he 
give himself leave to think, may he know, that he is not born 

the Order for Holy Communion ; 
(3) from the General Confession in 
the Order for Holy Communion. 

5. A curious self-contradiction 1 
In i. 8 we have been told that the 
testimony of God's Spirit must needs 
be antecedent to the testimony of 
our own spirit ; yet here it is stated 
that regeneration must precede the 
witness of the Spirit. It is unusual 
to find in Wesley such a confusion 
of ideas ; he failed to make any 
clear distinction in thought between 
adoption and regeneration, or to 
realize that, as we have seen, they 
are two aspects of one blessing, and 
are simultaneous. The tests that 
follow in sections 6-8 come to this, 
that we must determine the genuine- 
ness of the witness of the Spirit by 
the existence in us of those tempers 
which, if i. 8 and 9 are to be be- 
lieved, are some of its results ; in 

other words, by the witness of our 
own spirit. Prof. James agrees with 
this (Var. Relig. Exper. p. 238) : 
' T he real witness of the sp irit to the 
"second birth is to be found only in 
the disposition of the genuine child 


heart, the love" of"seIf~eraaicate37 
**But this is to ignore the teaching of 
section 9, that the witness of the 
spirit is ' immediately and directly 
perceived, if our spiritual senses are 
rightly disposed ' ; though in sec- 
tion 12, Wesley again falls into the 
same vicious circle, and says that we 
can only determine whether our 
senses are rightly disposed by the 
testimony of our own spirit. The 
whole trouble is got rid of when it is 
recognized tha^wjg^LQ JJealiug with. 
a avfx.jj.apTV£la t ^ a joint witness.,, the 
agreement of the two witnesses estab- 
lishing the truth of their testimony. 

214 Sermon X 

of the Spirit ; that he has never yet known God , but has 
mistaken the voice of nature for the voice of God. 

6. But waiving the consideration of whatever he has or has 
not experienced in time past ; by the present marks may we 
easily distinguish a child of God from a presumptuous self- 
deceiver. The Scriptures describe that joy in the Lord which 
accompanies the witn^ss"of~His"SpiriI7 as~ah" "hum Ele joy ; a" 
joy that abases to the dust, that makes a pardoned sinner cry 
out, 'I am vile! What am I, or my father's house !~NoW" 
mine eye seeth Thee, I abhor myself in dust and ashes ! ' And 
wherever lowliness is, there is meekness, patience, gentleness, 
long-suffering. There is a soft, yielding spirit ; a mildness and 
sweetness, a tenderness of soul, which words cannot express. 
But do these fruits attend that supposed testimony of the Spirit 
in a presumptuous man ? Just the reverse. The more confi- 
dent he is of the favour of God, the more is he lifted up ; the 
more does he exalt himself ; the more haughty and assuming 
is his whole behaviour. The stronger witness he imagines him- 
self to have, the more overbearing is he to all around him ; the 
more incapable of receiving any reproof ; the more impatient 
of contradiction. Instead of being more meek, and gentle, 
and teachable, more ' swift to hear, and slow to speak/ he is 
more slow to hear, and swift to speak ; more unready to learn 
of any one , more fiery and vehement in his temper, and eager 
in his conversation. Yea, perhaps, there will sometimes 
appear a kind of fierceness in his air, his manner of speaking, 
his whole deportment, as if he were just going to take the matter 
out of God's hands, and himself to ' devour the adversaries.' 

7. Once more the Scriptures teach, ' This is the love of 
God,' the sure mark thereof, ' that we keep His command- 
ments ' (1 John v. 3). And our Lord Himself saith, ' He that 
keepeth My commandments, he it is that loveth Me ' (John 
xiv. 21). jLove rejoices to obey , to do, in every point, what- 

6. So Prof. James says (Var. Societies ; John Cennick amongst 

Relig. Exper., p. 343), ' Fanaticism others, whom he expelled from the 

is found only where the character is Society in 1741. 

masterful and aggressive.' Wesley 7. This Antinomian leaven was 

had met cases of this kind in his also at work in the Societies at this 

The Witness of the Spirit 215 

ever is acceptable to the be loved. A true lover of God has tens 
'I qJJQ Jriis"wffl oil earthlgn nidjQaeS^ the 

character of the presumptuous pretender totnTlove of God ? 
Nay, but His love gives him a liberty to disobey, to break, not 
•"TceefTlh^cTrm^ o f-Qotr: — PeTh^sTl^Srrie was in 

fear of the wrath of God, he did labour to do His will. But 
now, looking on himself as ' not under the law,' he thinks he 
is no longer obliged to observe it. He is therefore less zealous 
of good works , less careful to abstain from evil , less watchful 
over his own heart ; less jealous over his tongue. He is less 
earnest to deny himself, and to take up his cross daily. In a 
word, the whole form of his life is changed, since he has fancied 
himself to be at liberty. He is no longer ' exercising himself 
unto godliness ' , ' wrestling not only with flesh and blood, 
but with principalities and powers,' enduring hardships, 
' agonizing to enter in at the strait gate.' No , he has found 
an easier w ay to_ heaven : _a broad, smooth, flowery j>ath jf] 
in which he can say to his soul, ' Soul, take~thy ease ; eat, 
drink, and be merry.' It follows, with undeniable evidence, 
that he has not the true testimony of his own spirit. He 
cannot be conscious of having those marks which he hath not , 
that lowliness, meekness, and obedience nor yet can the 
Spirit of the God of truth bear witness to a lie , or testify 
that he is a child of God, when he is manifestly a child of 
the devil. 

8. Discover thyself, thou poor self-deceiver ! — thou who 
art confident of being a child of God , thou who sayest, ' I 
have the witness in myself/ and therefore defiest all thy enemies. 
Thou art weighed in th'e balance and found wanting ; even in 
the balance of the sanctuary. The word of the Lord hath 
tried thy soul, and proved thee to be reprobate silver. Thou 
art not lowly of heart ; therefore thou hast not received the 
Spirit of Jesus unto this day. Thou art not gentle and meek ; 
therefore thy joy is nothing worth : it is not joy in the Lord. 

time. In 1746 (March 23) Wesley property, and to all women. One 

records a conversation with J. W. Roger Ball, of Dublin, held the same 

at Birmingham, in which this man views, 
claimed to have a right to any one's 

216 Sermon X 

Thou dost not keep His commandments : therefore thou lovest 
Him not, neither art thou partaker of the Holy Ghost. It is 
consequently as certain and as evident as the oracles of God 
can make it, His Spirit doth not bear witness with thy spirit 
that thou art a child of God. cry unto Him, that the scales 
may fall off thine eyes; that thou mayest know thyself as 
thou art known ; that thou mayest receive the sentence of 
death in thyself, till thou hear the voice that raises the dead, 
saying, ' Be of good cheer : thy sins are forgiven ; thy faith 
hath made thee whole.' 

9. ' But how may one who has the real witness in himself 
distinguish it from presumption ? ' How, I pray, do you 
distinguish day from night ? How do you distinguish light 
from darkness ; or the light of a star, or a glimmering taper, 
from the light of the noonday sun ? Is there not an inherent, 
obvious, essential difference between the one and the other ? 
And do you not immediately and directly perceive that differ- 
ence, provided your senses are rightly disposed ? In like 
manner, there is an inherent, essential difference between 
spiritual light and spiritual darkness , and between the light 
wherewith the Sun of Righteousness shines upon our heart, 
and that glimmering light which arises only from * sparks of 
our own kindling ' and this difference also is immediately 
and directly perceived, if our spiritual senses are rightly 

10. To require a more minute and philosophical account of 
the manner whereby we distinguish these, and of the criteria, 
or intrinsic marks, whereby we know the voice of God, is to 
make a demand which can never be answered , no, not by one 
who has the deepest knowledge of God. Suppose, when Paul 
answered before Agrippa, the wise Roman had said, ' Thou 
talkest of hearing the voice of the Son of God. How dost 
thou know it was His voice ? By what criteria, what intrinsic 
marks, dost thou know the voice of God ? Explain to me the 
manner of distinguishing this from a human or angelic voice.' 
Can you believe, the Apostle himself would have once attempted 
to answer so idle a demand ? And yet, doubtless, the moment 
he heard that voice, he knew it was the voice of God. But 

The Witness of the Spirit 217 

how he knew this, who is able to explain ? Perhaps neither 
man nor angel. 

11. To come yet closer : suppose God were now to speak 
to any soul, ' Thy sins are forgiven thee,' He must be willing 
that soul should know His voice , otherwise He would speak 
in vain. And He is able to effect this, for, whenever He 
wills, to do is present with Him. And He does effect it : that 
soul is absolutely assured, ' This voice is the voice of God.' 
But yet he w hojiathjfiat. witness inJiimself cannote xplain 
it to one wEo hathjljiat4-J3X)r indeed is it to be expected that 

' he sh ould. Were there any natural medium to prove, or 
" natural method to explain, the things of God to unexperienced 
men, then the natural man might discern and know the things ;> 
of the Spirit of God. But this is utterly contrary to the 
assertion of the Apostle, that ' he cannot know them, because^ 
they are spiritually discerned^T^even by spiritual senses, 
'"which the naturaF man hath not. 

12. ' But how shall I know that my spiritual senses are 
rightly disposed ? ' This also is a question of vast importance ; 
for if a man mistake in this, he may run on in endless error 
and delusion. ' And how am I assured that this is not my 
case ; and that I do not mistake the voice of the Spirit ? ' 
Even by the testimony of your own spirit : by ' the answer of 
a good conscience toward God.' By the fruits which He hath 

"wrought in your spirit, you" shall know the testimony of the 
Spirit of God. Hereby you shall know that you are in no 
delusion, that you have not deceived your own soul. The 
immediate fruits of the Spirit, ruling in the heart, are ' love, 
joy, peace, bowels of mercies, humbleness of mind, meekness, 
gentleness, long-suffering.' And the outward fruits are, the 
doing g ood to all men; fEe doing no evil to any; and the"" 
walking~in" the light — a zealous, uniform obedience to all the 
commandments of God. 

13. By the same fruits shall you distinguish this voice of 
God from any delusion of the devil. That proud spirit cannot 
humble thee before God. He neither can nor would soften 
thy heart, and melt it first into earnest mourning after God, 
and then into filial love. It is not the adversary of God and 

218 Sermon X 

man that enables thee to love thy neighbour, or to put on 
meekness, gentleness, patience, temperance, and the whole 
armour of God. He is not divided against himself, or a 
destroyer of sin, his own work. No ; it is none but the Son 
of God who cometh ' to destroy the works of the devil.' As 
surely therefore as holiness is of God, and as sin is the work 
of the devil, so surely the witness thou hast injthyself is not of 
Satan, but of God. 

*"" 14. Well then mayest thou say, ' Thanks be unto God for 
His unspeakable gift ! ' Thanks be unto God, who giveth me 
to * know in whom I have believed ' ; who hath ' sent forth 
the Spirit of His Son into my heart, crying, Abba, Father,' 
and even now, ' bearing witness with my spirit that I am a 
child of God ' ! And see, that not only thy lips, but thy life 
show forth His praise. He hath sealed thee for His own , 
glorify Him then in thy body and thy spirit, which are His. 
Beloved, if thou hast this hope in thyself, purify thyself, as He 
is pure. While thou beholdest what manner of love the Father 
hath given thee, that thou shouldest be called a child of God, 
cleanse thyself * from all filthiness of flesh and spirit, perfecting 
holiness in the fear of God ' ; and let all thy thoughts, words, 
and works be a spiritual sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God 
through Christ Jesus ! 


I can find no record either in the Journal or in the sermon list of the 
preaching of this sermon. No doubt the substance of it was often 
given to the Societies in the expositions which were regularly delivered 
to them by Wesley ; but it is rather a treatise than a sermon, and 
is not adapted for a general congregation. Even for believers it 
needs, as Wesley felt, the qualifications which he added in the two 
following sermons in the 1771 edition. Sermon CV, on Conscience, is 
from the first part of the same text. 

The object of the sermon is to explain what is meant by the witness 
of our own spirit referred to in Rom. viii. 16, as distinguished from 
the witness of the Divine Spirit to our adoption ; the indirect as con- 
trasted with. the direct evidence of our acceptance. ~ The text is not' 
"the best that could have been chosen for this purpdse.~"~It is St. Paul's 
vindication of his conduct at Corinth, which had been attacked by his 
opponents on the ground that he was a designing adventurer, walking 
according to the flesh (i.e. actuated by motives of mere worldly shrewd- 
ness), enriching himself under pretence of a collection for the poor 
saints at Jerusalem, and only refusing to take a salary in order to 
impose on the generosity of his converts. He says in answer to this : 
' The boast I make is this, as my conscience testifies to me, that my 
whole conduct in worldly matters was regulated by holiness and godly 
sincerity, not by the prudence of the natural man, but by the grace 
of God, and that more particularly in my relations to you.' There is 
no reference to his consciousness of acceptance with God, or the wit- 
ness of his conscience to that. Moreover, the reading of the A.V., 
on which certain sections of the sermon are based, is doubtful ; for 
&k\6tt)ti (simplicity) the better attested reading is dytorqrt (holi- 

With regard to this question, it may be well to turn aside for a 
moment from the explanations of the theologians to the actual experi- 
ences immediately following after conversion. These have been scien- 
tifically examined and tabulated by Prof. Starbuck and are summarized 
by Prof. James in Varieties of Religious Experience, Lecture X, as 
follows : 


220 Sermon XI 

(i) The sense of the coming into life of a higher control ; which 
results in the loss of all the worry, the sense that all is ultimately 
well with one, the peace, the harmony, the willingness to be, even 
though the outer conditions should remain the same. 

(2) The sense of perceiving truths not known before. The mysteries 
of life become lucid ; and often, nay, usually, the solution is more or 
less unutterable in words. 

(3) A sense of clean and beautiful newness within and without. This 
is often accompanied by a sense of brilliant light, a light ineffable in 
the soul and in nature. 

(4) The most characteristic of all the elements of the conversion 
crisis is the ecstasy of happiness produced. 

Normally this new experience follows a period of depression, doubt, 
misery, amounting often to utter despair. It is not the result of 
argument or logical conviction, but follows instantly on the surrender 
of self to Christ in faith. This is psychologically what is meant by 
the witness of the Spirit ; but each convert will afterwards explain it 
in his own way. To one it is the removal of the sense of condemna- 
tion, i.e. Justification ; to a second it is the realization that God is 
his loving Father, i.e. Adoption ; to a third it is the feeling that the 
old self has gone, and that a new life has come into his soul, i.e. Re- 
generation. But all these worketh that one and the same Spirit, 
dividing to every man severally as He will. Therefore, though the 
Scripture speaks specifically of the witness of the Spirit to adoption, 
it would be absurd to say that the consciousness of forgiveness, and 
the new birth, are not equally His work ; and therefore equally a 
witness borne by Him to what has taken place. The distinction be- 
tween justification, adoption, and regeneration is the result of a sound 
analysis ; but we must not suppose that processes which can be 
conceived separately in tnougnt are~necessarily separate in iact. 
They are airincltrded-in -ftrerofie" process of conversion, and neither 
can exist without the others. Adoption connects itself wjthjhe work_ 
of the Father, justification wrEh that of.the_Son, regeneration with 
" that of the Holy Ghost ; and like their divine authors, these three" 
are one. Moreover, to all three our own spirit bears conjoint witness 
with the Holy Spirit, re-echoing to His testimony in the conscious 
joy of pardon, the kindling love of sonship, the pulsing power of the 
new life. f i 

But all this is the starting-point of the process of sanctification ; the 
gradual bringing of the whole thought and life in to conformity with 
jhe lawofGod ^I pSDrnlfirffi t.hiaJollQ3gs-jE£ proof "T hat the supposed 
dire ct w i tness was a delusion. The fruits of the Spirit will be pro- 
duced in ever richer fullness ; and of this fact both ourselves and 
others can judge. This is really the indirect witness with which this 
sermon is concerned — the testimony of a good conscience and a good 

The Witness of our own Spirit 


life. It is not right to limit the witness of our own spirit to this con- 
firmatory testimony ; it is also a party to the direct witness. Hence 
Dr. Pope thinks the ' indirect witness ' the preferable name (iii. 130). 

This is our rejoicing, the testimony of our conscience, that in simplicity 
and godly sincerity, not with fleshly wisdom, but by the grace of God, 
we have had our conversation in the world. — 2 Cor. i. 12. 

1. Such is the voice of every true believer in Christ, so long 
as he abides in faith and love. ' He that followeth Me,' saith 
our Lord, ' walketh not in darkness ' : and while he hath the 
light, he rejoiceth therein. As he hath ' received the Lord 
Jesus Christ,' so he walketh in Him , and while he walketh in 
Him, the exhortation of the Apostle takes place in his soul, 
day by day, ' Rejoice in the Lord always , and again I say, 

2. But that we may not build our house upon the sand 
(lest when the rains descend, and the winds blow, and the 
floods arise and beat upon it, it fall, and great be the fall 
thereof), I intend in the following discourse to show what is 
the nature and ground of a Christian's joy. We know, in 
general, it is that happy peace, that calm satisfaction of spirit 
which arises from such a testimony of his conscience, as is 
here described by the Apostle. But, in order to understand 
this the more thoroughly, it will be requisite to weigh all his 
words ; whence will easily appear, both what we are to under- 
stand by conscience, and what by the testimony thereof ; and 
also, how he that hath this testimony rejoiceth evermore. 

3. And, first, what are we to understand by conscience ? 
What is the meaning of this word that is in every one's mouth ? 
One would imagine it was an exceeding difficult thing to 
discover this, when we consider how large and numerous 

Par. 1. In John viii. 12 the tenses 
are future : ' shall not walk in dark- 

3. This somewhat contemptuous 
brushing aside of the philosophical 
treatment of Conscience is hardly 
worthy of Wesley. The subject is 
by no means easy to be understood, 

and its difficulty is not merely the 
introduction of ' hard words ' into 
the discussion. It falls within the 
purview of biology, of psychology, 
of ethics, and of theology. Dr. 
Davison, in his Fernley Lecture on 
The Christian Conscience, p. 72, 
states some of the questions which 


Sermon XI Tjti> 

volumes have been from time to time wrote on this sub] 
and how all the treasures of ancient and modern learning 1 
been ransacked, in order to explain it. And yet it is t 
feared, it has not received much light from all those elabt 
inquiries. Rather, have not most of those writers pu; 
the cause ; ' darkening counsel by words without knowledj 
perplexing a subject, plain in itself and easy to be understc 
For, set aside but hard words, and every man of an he 
heart will soon understand the thing. 

4. God has made us thinking beings, capable of perce 
what is present, and of reflecting or looking back on wh 
past. In particular, we are capable of perceiving whatsc 
passes in our own hearts or lives , of knowing whatsoeve 
feel or do , and that either while it passes, or when it is 
This we mean when we say, man is a conscious being : he 
a consciousness, or inward perception, both of things pn 
and past, relating to himself, of his own tempers and out 
behaviour. But what we usually term conscience implies s< 
what more than this. It is not barely the knowledge oi 
present or the remembrance of our preceding life. To rer 
ber, to bear witness either of past or present things, is only 
and the least office of conscience its main business 

are raised in its study. Is it intui- 
tive ? Does it judge self or others ? 
Is it cognisant of motives or actions ? 
Does it decide essential or compara- 
tive moral quality ? Is it legisla- 
tive, or critical, or judicial ? Is it 
intellectual, or emotional, or voli- 
tional ? Is it infallible ? Can it be 
educated ? How is it related to re- 
ligion ? These cannot be settled 
peremptorily, even by a man of 
honest heart. 

Sermon CV, On Conscience, should 
be read along with this section. It 
was written at Bristol in the first 
week in March 1788, and speaks with 
approbation of a treatise on the sub- 
ject by Monsieur Placatt, a French 
Protestant divine of the seventeenth 

century who died in 1718 ; the 
of Francis Hutcheson are crit 
on the ground that he leaves 
wholly out of the question ; ai 
sermon concludes with a Ion 
tract from a sermon on Uni 
Conscientiousness by Dr. Anr 
Wesley's maternal grandfather 
4. Originally and by deriv 
conscience is a synonym for 
sciousness ; but from the fi 
tended to be used in the sei 
' the faculty which pronounces 
the moral quality of one's acti< 
motives, approving the righl 
condemning the wrong.' In ci 
modern speech the two word 
quite distinct. 

The Witness of our own Spirit 


excuse or accuse, to approve or disapprove, to acquit or 

5. Some late writers indeed have given a new name to this, 
and have chose to style it a moral sense. But the old word 
seems preferable to the new, were it only on this account, 
that it is more common and familiar among men, and therefore 
easier to be understood. And to Christians it is undeniably 
preferable, on another account also , namely, because it is 
scriptural , because it is the word which the wisdom of God 
hath chose to use in the inspired writings. 

5. The reference is to Lord Shaftes- 
bury, who uses the phrase " moral 
sense ' in his Inquiry Concerning 
Virtue, i. 3. 1 (1699) ; and specially 
to Francis Hutcheson, who really 
made it current. Born in 1694, ne 
became Professor of Moral Phil- 
osophy at Glasgow in 1729. His 
Essay on the Nature and Conduct of 
the Passions and Affections, with 
Illustrations on the Moral Sense, was 
published in 1728, and his System of 
Moral Philosophy in 1755. He 
taught that moral distinctions are 
apprehended directly by means of a 
special capacity of the soul, which 
he calls the Moral Sense. Wesley 
read an account of his works in 
Savannah in May 1737. In 1756 
he studied with his preachers an 
abridgement of his works (Journal, 
December 22), and finished the read- 
ing of it on July 31, 1758 (in both 
places he calls him wrongly Hutchin- 
son). On December 17, 1772, on 
his way to Luton, he read ' Mr. 
Hutcheson's Essay on the Passions,' 
and remarks, 'He is a beautiful 
writer, but his scheme cannot stand 
unless flbe Bible falls.' 

Conscience, Conscientia, is a literal 
translation of the Greek aweidrjais, 
which is used almost exclusively by 
St. Paul, never in the Gospels or by 
St. John., three times by St. Peter, 
and five times in the Epistle to the 

Hebrews. It had at first no moral 
connotation, but meant knowledge 
with, i.e. not bare consciousness, but 
present consciousness compared with 
past — reflection, judgement. In 
Sermon CV. 2, Wesley says that it 
implies ' the knowledge of two or 
more things together ; suppose, the 
knowledge of our words and actions, 
and at the same time of their good- 
ness or badness.' But I do not sup- 
pose that St. Paul or any other 
Greek writer thought any more of 
the meaning of aw- than a modern 
English author thinks of the mean- 
ing of the " con- ' in conscience. The 
word as a whole meant the moral 
sense, and was so used. It is usage, 
not derivation, that determines the 
signification of words. 

This definition of conscience is 
imperfect, as it makes it merely a 
cognitive faculty. It is more cor- 
rectly defined in Sermon CV, 7 : 
' First, it is a witness testifying what 
we have done. Secondly, it is a 
judge, passing sentence on what we 
have done. Thirdly, it, in some sort, 
executes the sentence, by occasion- 
ing a degree of complacency in him 
that does well, and a degree of un- 
easiness in him that does evil.' Even 
this does not quite recognize the 
volitional aspect of conscience, by 
virtue of which the judgement of 
conscience carries with it the obliga- 


Sermon XI 

And according to the meaning wherein it is generally used 
there, particularly in the Epistles of St. Paul, we may under- 
stand by conscience, a faculty or power, implanted by God in 
every soul that comes into the world, of perceiving what is 
right or wrong in his own heart or life, in his tempers, thoughts, 
words, and actions. 

6. But what is the rule whereby men are to judge of right 
and wrong ? whereby their conscience is to be directed ? The 
rule of Heathens, as the Apostle teaches elsewhere, is ' the 
law written in their hearts.' ' These,' saith he, ' not having 

tion to act according to that judge- 
ment. Dr. Davison {Christian Con- 
science, p. 86) says : ' The judgement 
of conscience is always more or less 
accompanied by feeling — feelings 
which condemn or acquit in a pecu- 
liar and characteristic way. Fur- 
ther, the judgement of conscience is 
obviously and essentially connected 
with action. An essential part of 
the judgement which it pronounces 
is the indefeasible obligation under 
which every one who recognizes it 
lies to cause it to become actual.' 
It would appear that Wesley had 
not read Bishop Butler's great Ser- 
mon II, preached in the Rolls 
Chapel, and published in 1726. The 
Bishop says : ' There is a superior 
principle of reflection or conscience 
in every man, which distinguishes 
between the internal principles of 
his heart, as well as his external 
actions ; which passes judgement 
upon himself and them ; pronounces 
determinately some actions to be in 
themselves just, right, good ; others 
to be in themselves evil, wrong, un- 
just ; which, without being con- 
sulted, without being advised with, 
magisterially exerts itself, and ap- 
proves or condemns him, the doer 
of them, accordingly ; and which, if 
not forcibly stopped, naturally and 
always of course goes on to antici- 
pate a higher and more effectual 

sentence, which shall hereafter second 
and affirm its own. . Had it 
strength, as it has right, had it power, 
as it has manifest authority, it would 
absolutely govern the world.' Wes- 
ley had interviewed Butler when he 
was Bishop of Bristol on August 16 
and 18, 1739. The Bishop criticized 
what he supposed to be Wesley's 
teaching — ' it is a horrid thing, a 
very horrid thing I ' — told him he 
had no business in his diocese, and 
advised him " to go hence.' Such a 
reception would not dispose him to 
read Butler's Sermons. However, 
in January 1746 he read the Analogy 
and re-read it in May 1768 ; he 
thought it a fine book, but too hard 
for the Freethinkers for whom it was 
intended. I think it likely he may 
have read the sermons before 1788 ; 
for in Sermon CV he speaks like 
Butler of the natural conscience ; 
and uses the story of Balaam, and 
the passage about him in Micah 
(vi. 5), just as Butler does in his Ser- 
mon VII on the character of Balaam. 
6. The rule of the heathen is what 
is referred to in Sermon CV as the 
natural conscience ; and there Wes- 
ley asks, ' Can it be denied that 
something of this is found in every 
man born into the world ? ' But he 
objects to the name ' natural con- 
science ' on the ground that it is 
not natural, but a supernatural gift 

The Witness of our own Spirit 


the ' outward ' law, are a law unto themselves : who show 
the work of the law/ that which the outward law prescribes, 
' written in their hearts,' by the finger of God ; ' their con- 
science also bearing witness,' whether they walk by this rule 
or not, ' and their thoughts the meanwhile accusing, or even 
excusing,' acquitting, defending them , rj teal a7ro\oyov/j,ev(ov 
(Rom. ii. 14, 15). But the Christian rule of right and wrong 
iSvthe Word of God, the writings of the Old and New Testa- 
ment ; "all that the prophets and ' holy men of old ' wrote 
' as they were moved by the Holy Ghost ' ; all that Scripture 

of God, due to the direct influence of 
the Holy Spirit. The same objec- 
tion might be taken to calling any- 
human power or function natural ; 
for they are all the gift of God, and 
are only exercised in conjunction 
with His Spirit ; ' in Him we live 
and move and have our being.' In 
this respect conscience differs in no 
wise from our other faculties. 

The rendering ' even excusing ' 
rather than ' also excusing ' is to be 
preferred. The point is that the 
function of conscience is far more 
often prohibitive and accusatory 
than the reverse. Socrates told his 
judges (Plato, Apol. p. 31 d) that 
from his boyhood a voice had come 
to him which always dissuaded him 
from doing what he was intending to 
do, but never positively urged him 
to do anything. 

Conscience has the power to dis- 
cern the difference between right 
and wrong, and it might be supposed 
that therefore it needs no guidance 
or education. But this is a mis- 
take. Every man knows what is 
meant by beauty, and has the faculty 
of discerning and appreciating it ; 
but the aesthetic faculty needs a 
standard, and has to be trained be- 
fore it learns always to approve the 
things that are really excellent in 
art. So the conscience needs a 
standard, and that is found by the 

I— 15 

Christian in the life and teaching of 
Jesus Christ, as recorded in the New 
Testament. Wesley makes the whole 
Bible the standard ; but this is a 
wrong position to take up. The 
moral teaching of the Old Testament 
is imperfect and at some points in 
need of correction. Slavery, war, 
persecution for theological opinions, 
hatred of one's enemies, have all 
been defended by quotations from 
the Old Testament. That which was 
said to the men of old requires to be 
interpreted, or even abrogated by 
Christ's ' But I say unto you.' 

The second paragraph of this sec- 
tion needs some modification. The 
Bible does not contain a complete 
code of moral laws. General prin- 
ciples are laid down, but their 
application is left to the individual 
conscience ; and whilst it may be 
true that ' nothing is evil but what 
is here forbidden, either in terms, 
or by undeniable inference,' yet the 
drawing of such an undeniable in- 
ference is often a matter of great 
difficulty. Cases frequently arise of 
conflict of duties, as between the law 
of truth and the law of love ; and 
modern conditions have brought 
about new problems of conduct which 
it is not by any means easy to bring 
under any definite rule of the New 
Testament. To decide these is the 
function of the conscience, enlight- 


Sermon XI 

which was ' given by inspiration of God,' and which is ind 
' profitable for doctrine,' or teaching the whole will of G 
' for reproof ' of what is contrary thereto , for ' correct 
of error , and ' for instruction/ or training us up, ' in righteo 
ness ' (2 Tim. hi. 16) . 

This is a lantern unto a Christian's feet, and a light in all 
paths. This alone he receives as his rule of right or wrc 
of whatever is really good or evil. He esteems nothing good, 
what is here enjoined, either directly or by plain consequen 
he accounts nothing evil but what is here forbidden, eit 
in terms, or by undeniable inference. Whatever the Scripl 
neither forbids nor enjoins, either directly or by plain coi 
quence, he believes to be of an indifferent nature , to be in it 
neither good nor evil ; this being the whole and sole outw 
rule whereby his conscience is to be directed in all things. 

7. And if it be directed thereby in fact, then hath he ' 
answer of a good conscience toward God.' ' A good c 
science ' is what is elsewhere termed by the Apostle, 
conscience void of offence.' So, what he at one time expre 
thus, ' I have lived in all good conscience before God u 
this day ' (Acts xxiii. 1) ; he denotes at another by that 
pression, ' Herein do I exercise myself, to have always a c 
science void of offence toward God, and toward men ' (cl 
xxiv. 16). Now, in order to this there is absolutely requi: 

ened and guided by the Holy Spirit. 
Wesley lays a little too much stress 
on the ' written word of God,' and 
does not adequately recognize the 
function of the Holy Spirit, who is 
given, not only to bring to our re- 
membrance the things which Jesus 
said, but also to guide us into all 
the truth. In Sermon CV, 13, how- 
ever, the function of the Holy Spirit 
is more fully recognized : ' In order 
to the very existence of a good con- 
science, the continued influence of the 
Spirit of God is absolutely needful.' 

7. ' The answer of a good con- 
science,' &c. This difficult passage 
probably means ' Baptism saves us 

into God ' [i.e. so as to bring us 
fellowship with God] ; ' not th< 
moval of physical defilement, 
the demand [or stipulation] c 
good conscience.' The candi 
was asked certain questions, sue 
' Dost thou believe ? Wilt thoi 
nounce the world ? Wilt thou < 
Christ ? ' and it was this den 
for an answer such as showed a { 
conscience that was the essei 
thing in baptism. 

Compare the definition of a { 
conscience in Sermon CV, 12 : 
divine consciousness of walking i 
things according to the written a 
of God.' 

The Witness of our own Spirit 227 

first, a right understanding of the Word of God,, of His ' holy, 
and^ccep table, and perfect will ' concerning us, as it is re- 
vealed therein. For it is impossible we should walk by a rule, 
if we do not know what it means. There is, secondly, re- 
quired (which how few have attained f ) a true knowledge of 
ourselves , a knowledge both of our hearts and lives, of our" 
■toward tempers and outward conversation : seeing, if we know 
them not, it is not possible that we should compare them with 
our rule. There is require^ thirdly,, an agreement of our 
hearts and lives, of our tempers and conversation, of our 
thoughts, arid words, and works, with that rule, with the 
written Word of God. For, without this, if we have any con- 
science at all, it can be only an evil conscience. There is, 
fourthly^required, an inward perception of this agreement 
with our rule : and this habitual perception, this inward con- 
sciousness itself, is properly a good conscience , or, in the other 
phrase of the Apostle, ' a conscience void of offence toward 
God, and toward men.' 

8. But whoever desires to have a conscience thus void of 
offence, let him see that he lay the right foundation. Let him 
remember, ' other foundation ' of this ' can no man lay, than 
that which is laid, even Jesus Christ.' And let him also be 
mindful, that no man buildeth on Him but by a living faith , 
that no man is a partaker of Christ, until he can clearly testify, 
' The life which I now live, I live by faith in the Son of God ' , 
in Him who is now revealed in my heart ; who ' loved me, 
and gave Himself for me.' Faith alone is that evidence, that 
conviction, that demonstration of things invisible, whereby, 
the eyes of our understanding being opened, and divine light 
poured in upon them, we ' see the wondrous things of God's 
law ' , the excellency and purity of it ; the height, and depth, 

8. So Dr. Davison {Christian Con- the glory of God revealed in Christ, 

science, p. 196) : ' The law of the reflects like a mirror the glorious 

Christian conscience is summed up character of the Saviour. He is the 

in this, " Put ye on the Lord Jesus mirror that reflects, not all that is 

Christ." ' in himself, but the manifested glory 

This interpretation of 2 Cor. iii. 18 of Christ, which is thus reproduced 

can hardly be justified. The Chris- and manifested in him. 
tian, gazing with unveiled face on 

228 Sermon XI 

and length, and breadth thereof, and of every commandment 
contained therein. It is by faith that, beholding ' the light of 
the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ,' we perceive, as 
in a glass, all that is within ourselves, yea, the inmost motions of 
our souls. And by this alone can that blessed love of God be 
' shed abroad in our hearts,' which enables us so to love one 
another as Christ loved us. By this is that gracious promise 
fulfilled unto all the Israel of God, ' I will put My laws into 
their mind, and write ' (or engrave) ' them in their hearts ' 
(Heb. viii. 10) , hereby producing in their souls an entire 
agreement with His holy and perfect law, and ' bringing into 
captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ.' 

And, as an evil tree cannot bring forth good fruit, so a good 
tree cannot bring forth evil fruit. As the heart therefore of a 
believer, so likewise his life, is thoroughly conformed to the 
rule of God's commandments , in a consciousness whereof, he 
can give glory to God, and say with the Apostle, ' This is our 
rejoicing, the testimony of our conscience, that in simplicity 
and godly sincerity, not with fleshly wisdom, but by the grace 
of God, we have had our conversation in the world.' 

9. ' We have had our conversation.' The Apostle in the 
original expresses this by one single word, avearpd^fiev ; but 
the meaning thereof is exceeding broad, taking in our whole 
deportment, yea, every inward as well as outward circum- 
stance, whether relating to our soul or body. It includes 
every motion of our heart, of our tongue, of our hands and 
bodily members. It extends to all our actions and words , 
to the employment of all our powers and faculties , to the 
manner of using every talent we have received, with respect 
either to God or man. 

10. ' We have had our conversation in the world ' , even 
in the world of the ungodly : not only among the children of 
God (that were comparatively a little thing) ; but among the 
children of the devil, among those that lie in wickedness, 
iv ra> 7rovr)pa>, in the wicked one. What a world is this ! 

10. 'In the wicked one ' is the meaning, rather than ' in wickedness ' 
(1 John v. 19). 

The Witness of our own Spirit 


How thoroughly impregnated with the spirit it continually 
breathes 1 As our God is good, and doeth good, so the god 
of this world, and all his children, are evil, and do evil (so far 
as they are suffered) to all the children of God. Like their 
father, they are always lying in wait, or ' walking about, 
seeking whom they may devour ' , using fraud or force, secret 
wiles or open violence, to destroy those who are not of the 
world , continually warring against our souls, and, by old or 
new weapons, and devices of every kind, labouring to bring 
them back into the snare of the devil, into the broad road that 
leadeth to destruction. 

11. ' We have had our ' whole ' conversation,' in such a 
world, ' in simplicity and godly sincerity.' First, in simpli- 
city this is what our Lord recommends under the name of 
a~"^single eye.' ' The light of the body,' saith He, is ' the 
eye. If therefore thine eye be single, thy whole body shall 
be full of light.' The meaning whereof is this What the 
eye is to the body, that the intention is to all the words and 
actions : if, therefore, thisfeye of thy soul be single, all thy 
actions and conversation shall be ' full of light,' of the light 
of heaven, of love, and peace, and joy in the Holy Ghost. 

We are then simple of heart, when the eye of our mind is 
singly fixed on" God~f when in all things we aim at God alone, 
as our God, our portion, our strength, our happiness, our ex- 
ceeding great reward, our all, in time and eternity. This is 
simplicity , when a steady view, a single intention of pro- 
moting His glory, of doing and suffering His blessed will, runs 

11. Compare Sermon CXVIII, On 
a Single Eye, written in 1789. As 
we have said above, the better-sup- 
ported reading is ' holiness ' ; but 
I am not sure that ' simplicity ' is 
not to be preferred. The words 
easily be confused ; and the ten- 
dency would be to substitute the 
more familiar AIIIOTHTI for the less 
common AIIAOTHTI. The latter 
word has the support of DEFGL and 
the old Syriac and Latin versions ; 

and I have a growing conviction 
that these so-called Western read- 
ings are often right. It certainly 
suits the context much better. It 
means literally 'simplicity,' the 
absence of complication in the 
motives, a single and straightforward 
purpose. The passage in Matthew 
(vi. 22) is not quite relevant here ; a 
' single eye ' there means a sound, 
healthy eye, as opposed to an ' evil 
eye,' a diseased eye. 


Sermon XI 

through our whole soul, fills all our heart, and is the constant 
spring of all our thoughts, desires, and purposes. 

12. ' We have had our conversation in the world,' secondly, 
in ' godly sincerity.' The difference between simplicity and 
sincerity seems to be chiefly this simplicity regards the in- 
tention itself, sincerity the execution of it , and this sincerity 
relates not barely to our words, but to our whole conversation, 
as described above. It is not here to be understood in that 
narrow sense, wherein St. Paul himself sometimes uses it, 
for speaking the truth, or abstaining from guile, from craft, 
and dissimulation ; but in a more extensive meaning, as 
actually hitting the mark, which we aim at by simplicity. 
Accordingly, it implies in this place, that we do, in fact, 
speak and do all to the glory of God ; that all our words are 
not only pointed at this, but actually conducive thereto , 
that all our actions flow on in an even stream, uniformly 
subservient to this great end , and that in our whole lives, 
we are moving straight toward God, and that continually , 
walking steadily on in the highway of holiness, in the paths 
of justice, mercy, and truth. i 

13. This sincerity is termed by the Apostle, godly sin- 
cerity, or the sincerity of God , etkucpiveiq Oeov , to prevent 
our mistaking or confounding it with the sincerity of the 
Heathens (for they had also a kind of sincerity among them, 
for which they professed no small veneration) , likewise to 
denote the object and end of this, as of every Christian 
virtue, seeing whatever does not ultimately tend to God, 

12. The word translated ' sin- 
cerity ' appears to mean by deriva- 
tion ' tested by the sunlight,' and 
so perfectly pure. T. H. Green trans- 
lates it in this passage ' perfect open- 
ness towards God.' The distinction 
drawn by Wesley cannot be main- 
tained. What St. Paul means is 
that in all his transactions at Corinth, 
his conscience testifies that he was 
absolutely straightforward, that his 
alleged motives were his real motives, 
that he had nothing to conceal from 

God or man. The repetition ' sim- 
plicity and sincerity ' is for the sake 
of emphasis, both words having 
much the same meaning. By divorc- 
ing his text from its context, Wesley 
was led into a fanciful exegesis ; 
much as was the case in The Almost 
Christian sermon. 

13. This is all imaginary ; St. 
Paul had no thought of distinguish- 
ing between Christian and heathen 
sincerity in this passage. 

The Witness of our own Spirit 


sinks among ' the beggarly elements of the world.' By 
styling it the sincerity of God, he also points out the Author 
of it, the ' Father of lights, from whom every good and 
perfect gift descendeth ' ; which is still more clearly declared 
in the following words, ' Not with fleshly wisdom, but by the 
grace of God.' 

14. ' Not with fleshly wisdom ' as if he had said, ' We 
cannot thus converse in the world, by any natural strength of 
understanding, neither by any naturally acquired knowledge 
or wisdom. We cannot gain this simplicity, or practise this 
sincerity, by the force either of good sense, good nature, or 
good breeding. It overshoots all our native courage and 
resolution, as well as all our precepts of philosophy. The 
power of custom is not able to train us up to this, nor the 
most exquisite rules of human education. Neither could I 
Paul ever attain hereto, nowithstanding all the advantages 
I enjoyed, so long as I was in the flesh, in my natural state, and 
pursued it only by fleshly, natural wisdom.' 

And yet surely, if any man could, Paul himself might 
have attained thereto by that wisdom for we can hardly 
conceive any who was more highly favoured with all the gifts 
both of nature and education. Besides his natural abilities, 
probably not inferior to those of any person then upon the 
earth, he had all the benefits of learning, studying at the 
University of Tarsus, afterwards brought up at the feet of 
Gamaliel, a person of the greatest account, both for knowledge 
and integrity, that was then in the whole Jewish nation. 

14. Tarsus was the seat of a 
university of considerable reputa- 
tion. Strabo (xiv. 4) says : ' So 
great is the zeal of the inhabitants 
for philosophy and all other encyclic 
training, that they have surpassed 
even Athens and Alexandria, and 
every other place one could mention 
in which philological and philosophi- 
cal schools have arisen.' It pro- 
duced such scholars as Athenodorus 
the Stoic, the tutor of Octavius 
Caesar, Nestor the Academician, the 

tutor of Marcellus, and Nestor the 
Stoic, the tutor of Tiberius. But it 
is very doubtful whether the young 
Saul, a Pharisee ' after the straitest 
sect of our religion,' would have 
been allowed to attend the lectures 
in a Gentile University. Dr. Find- 
lay, in his article on ' Paul ' in 
Hastings' Dictionary of the Bible, will 
only say that ' he could not but re- 
ceive intellectual stimulus, if only 
by way of aversion, from such a 
theatre of mental activity.' He 


Sermon XI 

And he had all the possible advantages of religious education, 
being a Pharisee, the son of a Pharisee, trained up in the 
very straitest sect or profession, distinguished from all others 
by a more eminent strictness. And herein he had ' profited 
above many ' others, ' who were his equals ' in years, ' being 
more abundantly zealous ' of whatever he thought would 
please God, and ' as touching the righteousness of the law, 
blameless.' But it could not be, that he should hereby 
attain this simplicity and godly sincerity. It was all but lost 
labour ; in a deep, piercing sense of which he was at length 
constrained to cry out, ' The things which were gain to me, 
those I counted loss for Christ. Yea doubtless, and I count all 
things but loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ 
Jesus my Lord ' (Phil. iii. 7, 8). 

15. It could not be that ever he should attain to this, but 
by the ' excellent knowledge of Jesus Christ ' our Lord ; or 
' by the grace of God ' — another expression of nearly the 
same import. By ' the grace of God ' is sometimes to be 
understood that free love, that unmerited mercy, by which 
I a sinner, through the merits of Christ, am now reconciled 
to God. But in this place it rather means that power of God 
the Holy Ghost, which ' worketh in us both to will and to do 
of His good pleasure.' As soon as ever the grace of God in 
the former sense, His pardoning love, is manifested to our 
souls, the grace of God in the latter sense, the power of 
His Spirit, takes place therein. And now we can perform, 
through God, what to man was impossible. Now we can 
order our conversation aright. We can do all things in the 
light and power of that love, through Christ which strength- 
eneth us. We now have ' the testimony of our conscience,' 

thinks, however, that after his 
return from his studies at Jerusalem 
under Gamaliel, who encouraged 
Greek learning, he probably ' used 
the facilities afforded by his native 
city for studying the Gentile thought 
of the day.' Gamaliel the elder was 
the grandson of the famous Hillel, 
and a member of the Sanhedrin. 

He was an open-minded, liberal man, 
and showed a sympathy for Greek 
learning and literature which was 
rare amongst the Rabbis of his time. 
All this is rather beside the mark. 
All that St. Paul means is that in 
his proceedings at Corinth he was 
not actuated by motives of mere 
human prudence and self-seeking. 

The Witness of our own Spirit 233 

which we could never have by fleshly wisdom, ' that in 
simplicity and godly sincerity we have our conversation in 
the world.' 

16. This is properly the ground of a Christian's joy. We 
may now therefore readily conceive, how he that hath this 
testimony in himself rejoiceth evermore. ' My soul,' may he 
say, ' doth magnify the Lord, and my spirit rejoiceth in God 
my Saviour.' I rejoice in Him, who, of His own unmerited 
love, of His own free and tender mercy, ' hath called me into 
this state of salvation,' wherein, through His power, I now 
stand. I rejoice, because His Spirit beareth witness to my 
spirit, that I am bought with the blood of the Lamb ; and 
that, believing in Him, ' I am a member of Christ, a child of 
God, and an inheritor of the kingdom of heaven.' I rejoice, 
because the sense of God's love to me hath, by the same 
Spirit, wrought in me to love Him, and to love for His sake 
every child of man, every soul that He hath made. I rejoice, 
because He gives me to feel in myself ' the mind that was in 
Christ ' : simplicity, a single eye to Him in every motion of 
my heart , power always to fix the loving eye of my soul on 
Him who ' loved me, and gave Himself for me ' , to aim at 
Him alone, at His glorious will, in all I think, or speak, or 
do : purity, desiring nothing more but God , ' crucifying 
the flesh with its affections and lusts ' ; ' setting my affections 
on things above, not on things of the earth ' holiness, a 
recovery of the image of God, a renewal of soul ' after His 
likeness' and godly sincerity, directing all my words and 
works, so as to conduce to His glory. In this I likewise 
rejoice, yea, and will rejoice, because my conscience beareth 
me witness in the Holy Ghost, by the light He continually 
pours in upon it, that I ' walk worthy of the vocation where- 
with I am called ' , that I ' abstain from all appearance of 
evil,' fleeing from sin as from the face of a serpent ; that as 

16. The word used in the text evil.' This is an unfortunate and 

does not mean ' joy,' but rather misleading translation. The Greek 

' glorying, confident assertion.' All word is eZ5o?, corresponding to the 

that Wesley says is true ; but it has Latin 'species' ; and the papyri abun- 

little or nothing to do with his text. dantly show that it means ' class, 

' Abstain from all appearance of sort, kind.' 


Sermon XI 

I have opportunity I do all possible good, in every kind, to all 
men ; that I follow my Lord in all my steps, and do what is 
acceptable in His sight. I rejoice, because I both see and feel, 
through the inspiration of God's Holy Spirit, that all my 
works are wrought in Him, yea, and that it is He who worketh 
all my works in me. I rejoice in seeing through the light of 
God, which shines in my heart, that I have power to walk in 
His ways ; and that, through His grace, I turn not therefrom, 
to the right hand or to the left. 

17. Such is the ground and the nature of that joy whereby 
an adult Christian rejoiceth evermore. And from all this we 
may easily infer, first, that this is not a natural joy It does 
not arise from any natural cause not from any sudden flow 
of spirits. This may give a transient start of joy ; but the 
Christian rejoiceth always. It cannot be owing to bodily health 
or ease , to strength and soundness of constitution for it 
is equally strong in sickness and pain , yea, perhaps far stronger 
than before. Many Christians have never experienced any 
joy, to be compared with that which then filled their soul, 
when the body was wellnigh worn out with pain, or consumed 
away with pining sickness. Least of all can it be ascribed to 
outward prosperity, to the favour of men, or plenty of worldly 
^goods ; for then, chiefly, when their faith has been triecfaTwitlP 
fire, by all manner of outward afflictions, have the children of" 
God rejoiced in Him, whom unseen they love'dT even with j oy 
unspeakable. And never surely did men rejoiceTike those " 
who were used as ' the filth and offscouring of the world ' , 
who wandered to and fro, being in want of all things; in 
hunger, in cold, in nakedness; who had trials, not only of 

17. ' An adult Christian ' — an im- 
portant qualification. The New 
Testament distinguishes between 
' babes in Christ,' ' young men,' and 
' full-grown men, even those who by 
reason of use have their senses exer- 
cised to discern good and evil.' In 
Minutes, 1745, it is stated that in- 
ward sanctincation begins ' in the 
moment we are justified. The seed 
of every virtue is then sown in the 

soul. From that time the believer 
gradually dies to sin and grows in 
grace. Yet sin remains in him ; yea, 
the seed of all sin, till he is sanctified 
throughout in spirit, soul, and body.' 
See the note at the end of this 
sermon in the 1771 edition: 'The 
preceding discourse describes the ex- 
perience of those that are strong in 
faith.' The word " adult ' was in- 
serted in the edition of 177 1. 

The Witness of our own Spirit 235 

' cruel mockings/ but, ' moreover of bonds and imprison- 
ments ' ; yea, who, at last, ' counted not their lives dear unto 
themselves, so they might finish their course with joy.' 

18. From ffie preceding considerations, we may, secondly, 
infer, that the joy of a Christian does not arise from any blind- 
ness of conscience, from his not being able to discern good 
from evil. So far from it, that he was an utter stranger to 
this joy, till the eyes of his understanding were opened , that 
he knew it not, until he had spiritual senses, fitted to discern 
spiritual good and evil. And now the eye of his soul waxeth 
not dim : he was never so sharp-sighted before : he has so 
quick a perception of the smallest things, as is quite amazing 
to the natural man. As a mote is visible in the sunbeam, so 
to him who is walking in the light, in the beams of the uncreated 
Sun, every mote of sin is visible, .Nor does he close the eyes 

^ofjus^pns^ieiic^ jmyiriore : that sleep is departed from himT 
His soul is always broad awake : no more slumber or folding 
of the hands to rest ! He is always standing on the tower, and 
hearkening what his Lord will say concerning him ; and always 
rejoicing in this very thing, in ' seeing Him that is invisible.' 

19. Neither does the joy of a Christian arise, thirdly, from 
any dullness or callousness of conscience. A kind of joy, it 
is true, may arise from this, in those whose ' foolish hearts are 
darkened ' ; whose heart is callous, unfeeling, dull of sense, 
and consequently, without spiritual understanding. Because 
of their senseless, unfeeling hearts, they may rejoice even in 
committing sin ; and this they may probably call liberty ! — 
which is indeed mere drunkenness of soul, a fatal numbness of 
spirit, the stupid insensibility of a seared conscience, pn the 
contrary, a Christian has the most exquisite sensibility ; such 
^sTieTould not have conceived before. He never had such a 

19- ' Liberty.' Wesley is thinking The quotation is the tenth verse 

of the Antinomians, like Roger Ball, of the hymn in Hymns and Sacred 

Mr. Green, William Cudworth, and Poems, 1742, entitled ' Watch in 

Stephen Timmins, who were causing all Things ' (2 Tim. iv. 5). It be- 

him a great deal of trouble about gins ' Jesu, my Saviour, Brother, 

this time ; putting ' gospel heads on Friend, ' and is divided in the Metho- 

bodies ready to indulge every unholy dist Hymn-Book into Hymns 445 

temper.' and 446. 

236 Sermon XI 

tenderness of conscience as he has had since the love of God 
has reigned in his heart. And this also is his glory and joy, that 
God hath heard his daily prayer 

O that my tender soul might fly 

The first abhorr'd approach of ill ; 
Quick as the apple of an eye, 

The slightest touch of sin to feel. 

20. To conclude. Christian joy is joy in obedience , joy in 
loving God, and keeping His commandments : and yet not 
in keeping them as if we were thereby to fulfil the terms of the 
covenant of works ; as if by any works or righteousness of ours 
we were to procure pardon and acceptance with God. Not 
so : we are already pardoned and accepted through the mercy 
of God in Christ Jesus. Not as if we were by our own obedi- 
ence to procure life, life from the death of sin this also we 
have already through the grace of God. Us ' hath He quick- 
ened, who were dead in sins ' ; and now we are ' alive to God, 
through Jesus Christ our Lord.' But we rejoice in walking 
according to the covenant of grace, in holy love and happy 
obedience. We rejoice in knowing that, ' being justified 
through His grace,' we have ' not received that grace of God in 
vain ' , that God having freely (not for the sake of our willing 
or running, but through the blood of the Lamb) reconciled us 
to Himself, we run, in the strength which He hath given us, 
the way of His commandments. He hath ' girded us with 
strength unto the war,' and we gladly ' fight the good fight of 
faith.' We rejoice, through Him who livetkin our hearts by 
faith, to ' lay hold of eternal life.' This is our rejoicing, thaf 
as our * Father worketh hitherto,' so (not by our own might 
or wisdom, but through the power of His Spirit, freely given in 
Christ Jesus) we also work the works of God. And may He 
work in us whatsoever is well-pleasing in His sight ! To 
whom be the praise for ever and ever ! 

In the edition of 1771 Wesley adds anote here : ' It may easily be observed 
that the preceding discourse describes the experience of those that are strong 
in faith ; but hereby those that are weak in faith may be discouraged ; to 
prevent which, the following discourse may be of use ' — i.e. Sermon XLVI, 
on Sin in Believers. 


This fine sermon was written as an antidote to the infection of ' still- 
ness ' which came upon the Societies in 1739. In the preface to the 
second part of the Journal Wesley says, ' About September 1739, while 
my brother and I were absent, certain men crept in among them 
unawares, greatly troubling and subverting their souls/ They taught 
that the members would never get a clean heart ' till you leave off 
using the means of grace, so called ; till you leave off running to 
church and sacrament, and praying, and singing, and reading either 
the Bible or any other book ; for you cannot use these things without 
trusting in them.' The chief agent in this movement was Philip 
Henry Molther, a Moravian missionary, who arrived in London on 
October 18, 1739, and at once joined the Fetter Lane Society. On 
December 31 Wesley had a long conversation with him, and set down 
the summary of his views ; he taught, inter alia, that the way to faith 
is to wait on Christ and be still ; that is, not to use the means of 
grace ; not to go to church ; not to communicate ; not to fast ; not 
to use so much private prayer ; not to read the Scripture ; because 
it is impossible for a man to use them without trusting in them. 
Spangenberg came to London about the same time and joined with 
Molther ; and between them they converted to their ' stillness ' 
several of the Methodists, including Brown, Bowers, George Bell, 
John Bray, and John Simpson. Even Charles Wesley was affected, 
and on January 22, 1741, he stopped preaching and said he intended 
to preach no more. The fit' only lasted about three weeks ; but it 
occasioned John much anxiety. Gambold, Westley Hall, and Ben- 
jamin Ingham embraced the same error. 

John Wesley at once attacked this mischievous form of Mysticism. 
On November 15, 1739, ' I exhorted four or five thousand people at 
Bristol neither to neglect nor rest in the means of grace ' ; and on 
the 19th 'I exhorted the society to wait upon God in all His ordin- 
ances.' This was doubtless substantially the present sermon. He 
took up the several points in detail in his expositions to the society 
at Fetter Lane in June 1740, speaking on the 24th on ' Why are ye 
yet subject to ordinances ? ' on the 25th on ' All scripture is given 


238 Sermon XII 

by inspiration of God ' ; on the 26th on ' Search the Scriptures ' ; 
and on the 27th and 28th on the Lord's Supper. The result was 
that he and his followers left the Fetter Lane Society on July 20, and 
met at the Foundery on the 23rd ; so providentially shaking off the 
Moravian connexion, which would have been a great obstacle to 
Wesley's work. 

It must be remembered that the sermon was addressed to those 
who were seeking the Lord, and had not yet received the witness of 
the Spirit ; it was these whom the Moravians exhorted to ' stillness,' 
not the assured believers. The only point that may be said to be 
still open to discussion is whether unconverted men, who are seeking 
salvation, should be admitted to the Lord's Supper ; as we shall 
see, Wesley strongly held that they should be encouraged to com- 
municate, and should take every opportunity of doing so. 

The whole of the fourth part of the Journal, which was published 
in 1744, should be read in this connexion ; and the two hymns by 
Charles Wesley which are appended to it. The first, on The Means of 
Grace, beginning ' Long have I seemed to serve Thee, Lord,' was 
first published in Hymns and Sacred Poems, 1740 (Collected Works, i. 
233). Fifteen of its twenty- three verses were in the 1876 Hymn-Book 
as Hymns 91 and 92. The second was republished in Hymns and 
Sacred Poems (1749), 95, ' The Bloody Issue Cured ' (Collected Works, 
iv. 251). Both emphasize the teaching of the sermon — that the means 
of grace are necessary, but that the sinner must not trust in them 
but in Christ. 

As to the text, I have only found one reference to it ; on June 22, 
1 74 1, Wesley allowed his Bible to open casually, and it opened at 
Mai. iii., which he forthwith proceeded to expound. But many texts 
would equally fit the sermon, and I imagine it was preached very 
often in substance in the years 1739-46. 

Ye are gone away from Mine ordinances, and have not kept them. 

— Mal. iii. 7. 

I. 1. But are there any ordinances now, since life and 
immortality were brought to light by the gospel ? Are there, 
under the Christian dispensation, any means ordained of God, 
as the usual channels of His grace ? This question could 
never have been proposed in the apostolical church, unless by 
one who openly avowed himself to be a Heathen , the whole 
body of Christians being agreed, that Christ had ordained 
certain outward means, for conveying His grace into the souls 
of men. Their constant practice set this beyond all dispute ; 

The Means of Grace 


for so long as ' all that believed were together, and had all things 
common ' (Acts ii. 44), ' they continued steadfastly in the 
teaching of the Apostles, and in breaking of bread, and in 
prayers ' (verse 42). 

2. But in process of time, when ' the love of many waxed 
cold,' some began to mistake the means for the end, and to 
place religion, rather in doing those outward works, than in a 
heart renewed after the image of God. They forgot that ' the 
end of ' every ' commandment is love, out of a pure heart,' with 
1 faith unfeigned ' : the loving the Lord their God with all 
their heart, and their neighbour as themselves : and the being 
purified from pride, anger, and evil desire, by a ' faith of the 
operation of God.' Others seemed to imagine, that though 
religion did not principally consist in these outward means, yet 
there was something in them wherewith God was well pleased ; 
something that would still make them acceptable in His sight, 
though they were not exact in the weightier matters of the law, 
in justice, mercy, and the love of God. 

3. It is evident, in those who abused them thus, they did 
not conduce to the end for which they were ordained : rather, 
the things which should have been for their health, were to 
them an occasion of falling. They were so far from receiving 
any blessing therein, that they only drew down a curse upon 
their head ; so far from growing more heavenly in heart and 
life, that they were twofold more the children of hell than 
before. Others, clearly perceiving that these means did not 
convey the grace of God to those children of the devil, began, 
from this particular case, to draw a general conclusion, — that 
they were not means of conveying the grace of God. 

4. Yet the number of those who abused the ordinances of 
God was far greater than of those who despised them, till 
certain men arose, not only of great understanding (sometimes 

I. Par. i. Wesley might have 
made even more of the passage he 
quotes ; it runs, ' And they con- 
tinued steadfastly in the teaching of 
the apostles, and in the fellowship ' 
■—curious that the founder of the 
class-meeting should have left this 

out — ' in the breaking of the bread/ 
i.e. the Lord's Supper, ' and in the 
prayers,' i.e. the common worship. 

4. The reference is to the Mystics 
of the ancient Church — such as the 
hermits St. Antony and St. Macarius ; 
the Latins St. Ambrose and St. Bene- 


Sermon XII 

joined with considerable learning), but who likewise appeared 
to be men of love, experimentally acquainted with true, inward 
religion. Some of these were burning and shining lights, 
persons famous in their generations, and such as had well 
deserved of the Church of Christ, for standing in the gap against 
the overflowings of ungodliness. 

It cannot be supposed, that these holy and venerable men 
intended any more, at first, than to show that outward religion 
is nothing worth, without the religion of the heart ; that ' God 
is a Spirit, and they who worship Him must worship Him in 
spirit and in truth ' ; that, therefore, external worship is lost 

diet, the pseudo-Dionysius, St. Gre- 
gory the Great ; the mediaevals Master 
Eckhart, Jean Gerson, St. Theresa 
and her disciple St. John of the 
Cross ; Thomas a Kempis and John 
Tauler ; and later still, Molinos and 
Madame Guy on. These all taught 
that the highest form of Christian 
experience was the ecstatic rapture 
and vision of God attained by ' pure ' 
prayer and contemplation, all out- 
ward helps being as far as possible 
discarded. Wesley made acquaint- 
ance with them at Oxford, and 
studied them further whilst he was 
in Georgia, and he was at first 
greatly drawn to their teaching. 
On March 4, 1736, he read the Lives 
of Tauler and Boehm, the latter of 
whom especially attracted him. Writ- 
ing in 1773 to Miss Bishop, he says, 
' There are excellent things in most 
of the Mystic writers. As almost all 
of them lived in the Romish Church, 
they were lights whom the gracious 
providence of God raised up to shine 
in a dark place. But they did not 
give a clear, a steady, or a uniform 
light. Madam Guyon was a good 
woman, and is a fine writer, but very 
far from judicious. Her writings 
will lead any one who is fond of 
them into unscriptural Quietism.' 
But he had little patience with the 

developments of Mysticism in the 
works of Jacob Behmen, the later 
writings of William Law, and Thomas 
Hartley's Paradise Restored. Writ- 
ing to the last of these in 1764, he 
says, ' I cannot but bewail your 
vehement attachment to the Mystic 
writers ; with whom I conversed 
much for several years, and whom 
I then admired, perhaps more than 
you do now. But I found at length 
an absolute necessity of giving up 
either them or the Bible.' In his 
Journal, February 5, 1764, he says 
of the Mystics, ' They slight not only 
works of piety, the ordinances of 
God, but even works of mercy.' In 
his letter to William Law in 1756 he 
quotes him as saying, ' Seek for help 
no other way, neither from men nor 
books ; but wholly leave yourself to 
God ' ; and remarks, ' How can a 
man " leave himself wholly to God," 
in the total neglect of His ordin- 
ances ? The old Bible way is to 
" leave ourselves wholly to God " in 
the constant use of all the means He 
hath ordained . ' On the same grounds 
he objected to Quakerism, because 
it set aside ordination and the 
sacraments, and taught that all 
worship other than that to which a 
man is directly moved by the Spirit 
is abominable idolatry. 

The Means of Grace 241 

labour, without a heart devoted to God, that the outward 
ordinances of God then profit much, when they advance in- 
ward holiness ; but, when they advance it not, are unprofitable 
and void, are lighter than vanity ; yea, that when they are 
used, as it were, in the place of this, they are an utter abomina- 
tion to the Lord. 

5. Yet it is not strange, if some of these, being strongly 
convinced of that horrid profanation of the ordinances of God, 
which had spread itself over the whole Church, and wellnigh 
driven true religion out of the world, in their fervent zeal for 
the glory of God, and the recovery of souls from that fatal 
delusion, spake as if outward religion were absolutely nothing, 
as if it had no place in the religion of Christ. It is not surprising 
at all, if they should not always have expressed themselves 
with sufficient caution ; so that unwary hearers might believe 
they condemned all outward means, as altogether unprofitable, 
and as not designed of God to be the ordinary channels of 
conveying His grace into the souls of men. 

Nay, it is not impossible, some of these holy men did, at 
length, themselves fall into this opinion : in particular those 
who, not by choice, but by the providence of God, were cut off 
from all these ordinances , perhaps wandering up and down, 
having no certain abiding-place, or dwelling in dens and caves 
of the earth. These, experiencing the grace of God in them- 
selves, though they were deprived of all outward means, might 
infer that the same grace would be given to them who of set 
purpose abstained from them. 

6. And experience shows how easily this notion spreads, 
and insinuates itself into, the minds of men ; especially of those 
who are thoroughly awakened out of the sleep of death, and 
begin to feel the weight of their sins a burden too heavy to be 
borne. These are usually impatient of their present state , 
and, trying every way to escape from it, they are always ready 
to catch at any new thing, any new proposal of ease or happi- 
ness. They have probably tried most outward means, and 
found no ease in them : it may be, more and more of remorse, 
and fear, and sorrow, and condemnation. It is easy, therefore, 
to persuade these that it is better for them to abstain from all 

1— 16 


Sermon XII 

those means. They are already weary of striving (as it seems) 
in vain, of labouring in the fire ; and are therefore glad of any 
pretence to cast aside that wherein their soul has no pleasure, 
to give over the painful strife, and sink down into an indolent 

II. i. In the following discourse, I propose to examine at 
large whether there are any means of grace. 

By ' means of grace,' I understand outward signs, words, or 
actions, ordained of God, and appointed for this end, to be the 
ordinary channels whereby He might convey to men, pre- 
venting, justifying, or sanctifying grace. 

I use this expression, ' means of grace,' because I know 
none better , and because it has been generally used in the 
Christian Church for many ages — in particular by our own 
Church, which directs us to bless God both for the means of 
grace, and hope of glory , and teaches us, that a sacrament is 
' an outward sign of inward grace, and a means whereby we 
receive the same.' 

The chief of these means are prayer, whether in secret or 
with the great congregation ; searching the Scriptures (which 
implies reading, hearing, and meditating thereon) , and re- 
ceiving the Lord's supper, eating bread and drinking wine in 
remembrance of Him , and these we believe to be ordained of 
God, as the ordinary channels of conveying His grace to the 
souls of men. 

II. i. 'Preventing,' i.e. preveni- 
ent, going before conversion. 

' Means of grace ' ; the old ecclesi- 
astical phrase is " media gratiae. ' The 
quotations are from the General 
Thanksgiving, which was composed 
by Bishop Reynolds and first appears 
in the Prayer-Book of 1662 ; and 
from the Catechism, where the 
definition in full is ' An outward and 
visible sign of an inward and spiritual 
grace given unto us, ordained by 
Christ Himself, as a means whereby 
we receive the same, and a pledge 
to assure us thereof.' 

Baptism is naturally omitted in 
this list, because practically all 
those of whom Wesley was thinking 
had already been baptized in in- 
fancy. Considering the large part 
which singing played both in his 
private devotions and his public 
services (see index to Standard 
edition of the Journal, s.v.), it is sur- 
prising that he does not mention 
praise as one of the means of grace ; 
but no doubt he included it under 
prayer. The omission of Christian 
fellowship is less easy to understand. 

The Means of Grace 243 

2. But we allow, that the whole value of the means depends 
on their actual subservience to the end of religion , that, con- 
sequently, all these means, when separate from the end, are 
less than nothing and vanity; that if they do not actually 
conduce to the knowledge and love of God, they are not 
acceptable in His sight ; yea, rather, they are an abomination 
before Him, a stink in His nostrils , He is weary to bear them. 
Above all, if they are used as a kind of commutation for the 
religion they were designed to subserve, it is not easy to find 
words for the enormous folly and wickedness of thus turning 
God's arms against Himself; of keeping Christianity out of 
the heart by those very means which were ordained for the 
bringing it in. 

3. We allow, likewise, that all outward means whatever, 
if separate from the Spirit of God, cannot profit at all, cannot 
conduce, in any degree, either to the knowledge or love of 
God. Without controversy, the help that is done upon earth, 
He doeth it Himself. It is He alone who, by His own almighty 
power, worketh in us what is pleasing in His sight , and all 
outward things, unless He work in them and by them, are 
mere weak and beggarly elements. Whosoever, therefore, 
imagines there is any intrinsic power in any means whatsoever, 
does greatly err, not knowing the Scriptures, neither the power 
of God. We know that there is no inherent power in the 
words that are spoken in prayer, in the letter of Scripture read, 
the sound thereof heard, or the bread and wine received in 
the Lord's supper ; but that it is God alone who is the Giver 
of every good gift, the Author of all grace ; that the whole 
power is of Him, whereoy, through any of these, there is any 
blessing conveyed to our souls. We know, likewise, that He 
is able to give the same grace, though there were no means on 
the face of the earth. In this sense, we may affirm, that, with 
regard to God, there is no such thing as means , seeing He is 
equally able to work whatsoever pleaseth Him, by any, or by 
none at all. 

4- We allow farther, that the use of all means whatever 
will never atone for one sin ; that it is the blood of Christ 
alone, whereby any sinner can be reconciled to God, there 

244 Sermon XII 

being no other propitiation for our sins, no other fountain for 
sin and uncleanness. Every believer in Christ is deeply con- 
vinced that there is no merit but in Him; that there is no 
merit in any of his own works , not in uttering the prayer, or 
searching the Scripture, or hearing the Word of God, or eating 
of that bread and drinking of that cup. So that if no more 
be intended by the expression some have used, ' Christ is the 
only means of grace/ than this, — that He is the only meritorious 
cause of it, it cannot be gainsaid by any who know the grace 
of God. 

5. Yet once more we allow, though it is a melancholy 
truth, that a large proportion of those who are called Christians, 
do to this day abuse the means of grace to the destruction of 
their souls. This is doubtless the case with all those who rest 
content in the form of godliness, without the power. Either 
they fondly presume they are Christians already, because they 
do thus and thus (although Christ was never yet revealed in 
their hearts, nor the love of God shed abroad therein) , or else 
they suppose they shall infallibly be so, barely because they 
use these means , idly dreaming (though perhaps hardly 
conscious thereof), either that there is some kind of power 
therein, whereby, sooner or later (they know not when), they 
shall certainly be made holy , or that there is a sort of merit in 
using them, which will surely move God to give them holiness, 
or accept them without it. 

6. So little do they understand that great foundation of 
the whole Christian building, ' By grace are ye saved ' ye 
are saved from your sins, from the guilt and power thereof, 
ye are restored to the favour and image of God, not for any 
works, merits, or deservings of yours, but by the free grace, 
the mere mercy of God, through the merits of His well-beloved 
Son : ye are thus saved, not by any power, wisdom, or strength, 
which is in you, or in any other creature , but merely through 

4. 'Some have used.' On April 25, means of grace (particularly not to 

1740, the two Wesleys interviewed communicate) ; because they 

Molther ; who amongst other things are not means of grace — there being 

said, ' That those who have not a no such thing as means of grace but 

clean heart ought not to use the Christ only.' 

The Means of Grace 245 

the grace or power of the Holy Ghost, which worketh all in 

7. But the main question remains : ' We know this salvation 
is the gift and the work of God , but how (may one say who 
is convinced he hath it not) may I attain thereto ? ' If you 
say, ' Believe, and thou shalt be saved ! ' he answers, ' True ; 
but how shall I believe ? ' You reply, ' Wait upon God.' 
' Well ; but how am I to wait ? In the means of grace, or 
out of them ? Am I to wait for the grace of God which 
bringeth salvation, by using these means, or by laying them 
aside ? ' 

8. It cannot possibly be conceived, that the Word of God 
should give no direction in so important a point , or, that the 
Son of God, who came down from heaven for us men and for 
our salvation, should have left us undetermined with regard to 
a question wherein our salvation is so nearly concerned. 

And, in fact, He hath not left us undetermined , He hath 
shown us the way wherein we should go. We have only to 
consult the oracles of God , to inquire what is written there , 
and, if we simply abide by their decision, there can no 
possible doubt remain. 

III. 1. According to this, according to the decision of holy 
writ, all who desire the grace of God are to wait for it in the 
means which He hath ordained ; in using, not in laying them 

And, first, all who desire the grace of God are to wait for 
it in the way of prayer. This is the express direction of our 
Lord Himself. In His Sermon upon the Mount, after explain- 
ing at large wherein religion consists, and describing the main 
branches of it, He adds, ' Ask, and it shall be given you , seek, 
and ye shall find ; knock, and it shall be opened unto you 
for every one that asketh receiveth , and he that seeketh 
findeth ; and to him that knocketh it shall be opened ' (Matt. 
vii. 7, 8) . Here we are in the plainest manner directed to ask, 
in order to, or as a means of, receiving , to seek, in order to 

8. The Nicene Creed says of our Lord, ' Who for us men and for our 
salvation came down from heaven.' 

246 Sermon XII 

find, the grace of God, the pearl of great price , and to knock, 
to continue asking and seeking, if we would enter into His 

2. That no doubt might remain, our Lord labours this 
point in a more peculiar manner. He appeals to every man's 
own heart ' What man is there of you, who, if his son ask 
bread, will he give him a stone ? or, if he ask a fish, will he 
give him a serpent ? If ye then, being evil, know how to give 
good gifts unto your children, how much more shall your Father 
which is in heaven,' the Father of angels and men, the Father 
of the spirits of all flesh, ' give good things to them that ask 
Him ' ? (verses 9-1 1). Or, as He expresses Himself on another 
occasion, including all good things in one, ' How much more 
shall your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to them that 
ask Him ? ' (Luke xi. 13). It should be particularly observed 
here, that the persons directed to ask had not then received the 
Holy Spirit : nevertheless our Lord directs them to use this 
means, and promises that it should be effectual ; that upon 
asking they should receive the Holy Spirit, from Him whose 
mercy is over all His works. 

3. The absolute necessity of using this means, if we would 
receive any gift from God, yet farther appears from that 
remarkable passage which immediately precedes these words : 
' And He said unto them,' whom He had just been teaching 
how to pray, ' Which of you shall have a friend, and shall go 
unto him at midnight, and shall say unto him, Friend, lend 
me three loaves : and he from within shall answer, Trouble me 
not ; I cannot rise and give thee. I say unto you, Though he 
will not rise and give him, because he is his friend, yet because 
of his importunity he will rise and give him as many as he 
needeth. And I say unto you, Ask, and it shall be given 
you ' (Luke xi. 5, 7-9). ' Though he will not give him, because 
he is his friend, yet because of his importunity he will rise and 
give him as many as he needeth.' How could our blessed 
Lord more plainly declare, that we may receive of God, by 
this means, by importunately asking, what otherwise we 
should not receive at all ? 

4. ' He spake also another parable, to this end, that men 

The Means of Grace 247 

ought always to pray, and not to faint,' till through this 
means they should receive of God whatsoever petition they 
asked of Him : ' There was in a city a judge, which feared 
not God, neither regarded man : and there was a widow in 
that city ; and she came unto him, saying, Avenge me of my 
adversary. And he would not for a while ; but afterward he 
said within himself, Though I fear not God, nor regard man, 
yet because this widow trouble th me, I will avenge her, lest 
by her continual coming she weary me' (Luke xviii. 1-5). 
The application of this our Lord Himself hath made : ' Hear 
what the unjust judge saith ! ' Because she continues to ask, 
because she will take no denial, therefore I will avenge her. 
' And shall not God avenge His own elect, which cry day and 
night unto Him ? I tell you He will avenge them speedily,' 
if they pray, and faint not. 

5. A direction, equally full and express, to wait for the 
blessings of God in private prayer, together with a positive 
promise that, by this means, we shall obtain the request of our 
lips, He hath given us in those well-known words : * Enter 
into thy closet, and when thou hast shut thy door, pray to thy 
Father which is in secret , and thy Father which seeth in 
secret shall reward thee openly ' (Matt. vi. 6). 

6. If it be possible for any direction to be more clear, it is 
that which God hath given us by the Apostle, with regard to 
prayer of every kind, public or private, and the blessing 
annexed thereto : 'If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of 
God, that giveth to all men liberally ' (if they ask ; otherwise 
' ye have not, because ye ask not,' Jas. iv. 2), ' and upbraideth 
not ; and it shall be given him ' (Jas. i. 5). 

If it be objected, ' But this is no direction to unbelievers , 
to them who know not the pardoning grace of God for the 
Apostle adds, " But let him ask in faith " , otherwise, " let 
him not think that he shall receive anything of the Lord 
I answer, The meaning of the word faith, in this place, is fixed 
by the Apostle himself, as if it were on purpose to obviate this 
objection, in the words immediately following : ' Let him 

III. 6. The use of 8iaK P ive<r0cu in the N.T. and later Christian writ- 
the sense of ' doubt ' is confined to ings ; but it naturally arises from 


Sermon XII 

ask in faith, nothing wavering,' nothing doubting, ^Bh 
SiaicpLvonevos : not doubting but God heareth his prayer, 
and will fulfil the desire of his heart. 

The gross, blasphemous absurdity of supposing faith, in 
this place, to be taken in the full Christian meaning, appears 
hence : it is supposing the Holy Ghost to direct a man who 
knows he has not this faith (which is here termed wisdom), to 
ask it of God, with a positive promise that ' it shall be given 
him ' ; and then immediately to subjoin, that it shall not be 
given him, unless he have it before he asks for it ! But who 
can bear such a supposition ? From this scripture, therefore, 
as well as those cited above, we must infer, that all who desire 
the grace of God are to wait for it in the way of prayer. 

7. Secondly. All who desire the grace of God are to wait 
for it in searching the Scriptures. 

Our Lord's direction, with regard to the use of this means, 
is likewise plain and clear. ' Search the Scriptures,' saith 
He to the unbelieving Jews, ' for they testify of Me ' (John v. 
39). And for this very end did He direct them to search the 
Scriptures, that they might believe in Him. 

The objection, that ' this is not a command, but only an 
assertion, that they did search the Scriptures,' is shamelessly 
false. I desire those who urge it, to let us know how a com- 
mand can be more clearly expressed, than in those terms, 

the more literal meaning ' to make 
a distinction.' It may mean either 
to make a distinction in the objects 
of prayer, as that one is legitimate 
and another not ; or to make dis- 
tinction, or to be divided, in one's 
own mind, to be of divided soul (cf. 
Jas. i. 8). 

Certainly faith is here used in its 
general sense, and not as equivalent 
to saving faith ; but it is not quite 
exact to say that wisdom here means 
saving faith. It is true that to St. 
James, as J. B. Mayor says, ' Wis- 
dom is the principal thing, to which 
he gives the same prominence as 
St. Paul to faith, St. John to love, 

St. Peter to hope ' ; but in this pas- 
sage the context shows that the 
wisdom to be asked for is that which 
enables the Christian to understand 
the use of trial. But Wesley need 
not have been abusive ; it is hard to 
see how this misinterpretation can 
be described as ' blasphemous.' 

7. ' Search the Scriptures.' Wes- 
ley is himself too peremptory in his 
condemnation of the alternative 
rendering ' Ye search the Scriptures ' 
as shamelessly false. As every one 
knows, the indicative second person 
plural is identical in form with the 
imperative ; so that the context 
alone can decide which is intended. 

The Means of Grace 


'Epevvare t<x? ypacjyds. It is as peremptory as so many words 

can make it. 

And what a blessing from God attends the use of this means, 
appears from what is recorded concerning the Bereans who, 
after hearing St. Paul, ' searched the Scriptures daily, whether 
those things were so. Therefore many of them believed,'— 
found the grace of God, in the way which He had ordained 
(Acts xvii. 11, 12). 

It is probable, indeed, that in some of those who had 'received 
the word with all readiness of mind,' ' faith came,' as the same 
Apostle speaks, ' by hearing,' and was only confirmed by 
reading the Scriptures but it was observed above, that, under 
the general term of searching the Scriptures, both hearing, 
reading, and meditating are contained. 

8. And that this is a means whereby God not only gives, 
but also confirms and increases, true wisdom, we learn from 
the words of St. Paul to Timothy ' From a child thou hast 
known the holy Scriptures, which are able to make thee wise 
unto salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus ' (2 Tim. 
iii. 15). The same truth (namely, that this is the great means 
God has ordained for conveying His manifold grace to man) 
is delivered, in the fullest manner that can be conceived, in the 
words which immediately follow ' All Scripture is given by 
inspiration of God ' , consequently, all Scripture is infallibly 

Now, the point of the argument is 
that the Jews search the scriptures 
which really testify of Christ ; but 
in spite of this they will not come 
to Christ. They think that they 
have eternal life in the Scriptures ; 
but it is only from Christ that they 
can have life. There was no need 
to exhort them to search the Scrip- 
tures ; they already did it with 
meticulous care. Practically all the 
modern commentators prefer the 
indicative rendering ; and it is 
adopted in the R.V. The outstand- 
ing weakness of Wesley as an 
interpreter of the Scriptures is his 
disregard of the context ; he takes 

just the words of the particular pas- 
sage he is considering without refer- 
ence to what precedes or follows ; 
and so often falls into error, as in 
this and the preceding case. His 
warmth of denunciation of those 
who do not agree with him he prob- 
ably learned from the commentators 
on the classics, who abused their 
opponents with all the freedom and 
vigour of fish-wives ; and besides, he 
was feeling very indignant with the 
people who had made such trouble 
with their Quietism in his societies. 
8 The alternative rendering, which 
is adopted by the R.V.. 'Every 
scripture inspired of God is also 

250 Sermon XII 

true , ' and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, 
for instruction in righteousness ' ; to the end ' that the man of 
God may be perfect, throughly furnished unto all good works ' 
(verses 16, 17). 

9. It should be observed, that this is spoken primarily and 
directly of the Scriptures which Timothy had known from a 
child , which must have been those of the Old Testament, for 
the New was not then wrote. How far then was St. Paul 
(though he was ' not a whit behind the very chief of the 
Apostles,' nor, therefore, I presume, behind any man now 
upon earth) from making light of the Old Testament ! 
Behold this, lest ye one day ' wonder and perish,' ye who 
make so small account of one half of the oracles of God ! 
Yea, and that half of which the Holy Ghost expressly 
declares, that it is ' profitable,' as a means ordained of God 
for this very thing, ' for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, 
for instruction in righteousness ' ; to the end, * the man of 
God may be perfect, throughly furnished unto all good 

10. Nor is this profitable only for the men of God, for those 
who walk already in the light of His countenance , but also 
for those who are yet in darkness, seeking Him whom they 

profitable,' &c, does not affect the ' put no unnatural interpretation 

argument of the paragraph, except upon it, but take the known phrases 

as regards the interpolated paren- in their common obvious sense.' 

thesis, ' Consequently, all scripture Moreover, he is not foolish enough 

in infallibly true.' Wesley believed to suppose (as some of his followers 

this in the strictest sense. In have done) that the A.V. is infallible. 

Journal, August 24, 1776, he says, Indeed in Journal, September 14, 

' If there be any mistakes in the 1785, he criticizes adversely the 

Bible, there may as well be a thou- A.V rendering of Ps. lxxiv. 12, and 

sand. If there be one falsehood in adds, ' Many such emendations there 

that Book, it did not come from the are in this translation ; one would 

God of truth.' At the same time, he think King James had made them 

allows the function of reason in the himself ! ' 

interpretation of the Bible. In Sermon 9. A seasonable observation. It 
LXX, i. 6, he says, ' Is it not reason is often forgotten that all that is 
(assisted by the Holy Ghost) which said in the New Testament in re- 
enables us to understand what the gard to the authority and inspiration 
Scriptures declare ? ' and in Sermon of the Scriptures refers to the Old 
CXXXVI he directs that we must Testament only. 

The Means of Grace 


know not. Thus St. Peter : ' We have also a more sure word 
of prophecy ' : literally, ' And we have the prophetic word 
more sure ' : Kal exopev fiefiaiorepov rov irpo^riicov \6yov : 
confirmed by our being ' eye-witnesses of His majesty,' and 
' hearing the voice which came from the excellent glory,' ' unto 
which '—prophetic word ; so he styles the holy Scriptures— 
' ye do well that ye take heed, as unto a light that shineth 
in a dark place, until the day dawn, and the Day-star arise in 
your hearts ' (2 Pet. i. 19). Let all therefore who desire that 
day to dawn upon their hearts, wait for it in searching the 

11. Thirdly. All who desire an increase of the grace of 
God are to wait for it in partaking of the Lord's supper ; for 
this also is a direction Himself hath given : ' The same night 
in which He was betrayed He took bread, and brake it, and 
said, Take, eat : this is My Body ' , that is, the sacred sign of 
My body : ' this do in remembrance of Me.' Likewise ' He 
took the cup, saying, This cup is the new testament,' or cove- 
nant, * in My blood ' , the sacred sign of that covenant ' this 
do ye in remembrance of Me. For as often as ye eat this 

10. This interpretation of the 
passage in 2 Pet. i. 19 is adopted by 
J. B. Mayor, in preference to Alford's, 
that the prophetic word is a surer 
basis for faith than the transfigura- 

11. In Journal, June 27, 1740, 
Wesley says : ' In latter times many 
have affirmed that the Lord's Supper 
is not a converting, but a confirming 
ordinance. And among us it has 
been diligently taught that none 
but those who are converted, who 
have received the Holy Ghost, who 
are believers in the full sense, ought 
to communicate. But experience 
shows the gross falsehood of that 
assertion that the Lord's Supper is 
not a converting ordinance. Ye are 
the witnesses. For many now pre- 
sent know, the very beginning of 
your conversion to God was 

wrought at the Lord's Supper. Now, 
one single instance of this kind 
overthrows the whole assertion.' 
On the next day he showed at large 
' (1) That the Lord's Supper was 
ordained by God to be a means of 
conveying to men either preventing, 
or justifying, or sanctifying grace, 
according to their several necessities. 
(2) That the persons for whom it 
was ordained are all those who know 
and feel that they want the grace 
of God. (3) That there is no pre- 
vious preparation indispensably 
necessary, but a desire to receive 
whatever He pleases to give. And 
(4) That no fitness is required at the 
time of communicating, but a sense 
of our state, of our utter sinfulness 
and helplessness.' These views he 
defends in his Answer to Mr. Church, 
iii. 3 (1744-5), and his letter to the 


Sermon XII 

bread, and drink this cup, ye do show forth the Lord's death 
till He come ' (i Cor. xi. 23, &c.) ye openly exhibit the same, 
by these visible signs, before God, and angels, and men, ye 
manifest your solemn remembrance of His death, till He cometh 
in the clouds of heaven. 

Only ' let a man ' first ' examine himself,' whether he 
understand the nature and design of this holy institution, 
and whether he really desire to be himself made conformable 
to the death of Christ ; and so, nothing doubting, ' let him eat 
of that bread, and drink of that cup ' (verse 28). 

Here, then, the direction first given by our Lord is expressly 
repeated by the Apostle : ' Let him eat ; let him drink ' 
(iadceTQ), iriverwy both in the imperative mood) , words not 
implying a bare permission only, but a clear, explicit command ; 
a command to all those who either already are filled with 
peace and joy in believing, or can truly say, ' The remembrance 
of our sins is grievous unto us, the burden of them is 

12. And that this is also an ordinary, stated means of 
receiving the grace of God, is evident from those words of the 
Apostle which occur in the preceding chapter : ' The cup of 
blessing which we bless, is it not the communion,' or communi- 

Bishop of London, i. 10, n (1747). 
When, after Wesley's death, it had 
been decided, under the Plan of 
Pacification of 1795, that the Lord's 
Supper could be administered by- 
Methodist preachers, if the majority 
of the trustees and of the stewards 
and leaders desired it, it was re- 
solved in 1796, ' No person shall be 
suffered to partake of the Lord's 
Supper among us, unless he be a 
member of our society, or receive a 
note of admission from the assist- 
ant,' and this was reaffirmed by the 
Conference of 1889. As any one 
may become a member of the 
Methodist Church who has ' a desire 
to flee from the wrath to come, and 
be saved from his sins,' this rule is 

quite in accord with Wesley's teach- 
ing ; and the empowering of the 
assistant, or minister, to admit any 
one whom he thinks fit, removes any 
possible obstacle to an unconverted 
but penitent person partaking of the 
Lord's Supper. Indeed, it is usual 
for the minister to invite both 
members of other churches and sin- 
cere seekers after God to join in the 
observance of this Sacrament. 

The last line of the paragraph is 
appropriately quoted from the 
General Confession in the Order for 
Holy Communion ; in the Metho- 
dist form of the service the conclud- 
ing words (' the burden of them is 
intolerable ') are omitted. 

The Means of Grace 253 

cation, ' of the blood of Christ ? The bread which we break, 
is it not the communion of the body of Christ ? ' (1 Cor. x. 
16). Is not the eating of that bread, and the drinking of that 
cup, the outward, visible means whereby God conveys into our 
souls all that spiritual grace, that righteousness, and peace, 
and joy in the Holy Ghost, which were purchased by the body 
of Christ once broken, and the blood of Christ once shed for 
us ? Let all, therefore, who truly desire the grace of God, eat 
of that bread, and drink of that cup. 

IV 1. But as plainly as God hath pointed out the way 
wherein He will be inquired after, innumerable are the objec- 
tions which men, wise in their own eyes, have from time to 
time raised against it. It may be needful to consider a few of 
these , not because they are of weight in themselves, but 
because they have so often been used, especially of late years, 
to turn the lame out of the way ; yea, to trouble and subvert 
those who did run well, till Satan appeared as an angel of light. 

The first and chief of these is, ' You cannot use these means 
(as you call them) without trusting in them.' I pray, where is 
this written ? I expect you should show me plain Scripture for 
your assertion : otherwise I dare not receive it , because I 
am not convinced that you are wiser than God. 

If it really had been as you assert, it is certain Christ must 
have known it. And if He had known it, He would surely have 
warned us ; He would have revealed it long ago. Therefore, 
because He has not, because there is no tittle of this in the 
whole revelation of Jesus Christ, I am as fully assured your 
assertion is false, as that this revelation is of God. 

' However, leave them off for a short time, to see whether 
you trusted in them or no.' So I am to disobey God, in order 

12. Wesley's interpretation is IV. i. 'Of late years': the 

sound, as far as it goes ; but it omits reference is to Molther and his 

what the context expressly empha- Quietist followers. See introduction 

sizes, that in partaking of the bread above. 

we enter into union, not only with ' Damnation ' : the Greek word 

Christ, but with one another, by means ' condemnation,' not ' damna- 

virtue of our common union with tion ' in the modern sense. 

254 Sermon XII 

to know whether I trust in obeying Him ! And do you avow 
this advice ? Do you deliberately teach to ' do evil, that good 
may come ' ? O tremble at the sentence of God against such 
teachers ! Their ' damnation is just.' 

' Nay, if you are troubled when you leave them off, it is 
plain you trusted in them.' By no means. If I am troubled 
when I wilfully disobey God, it is plain His Spirit is still striving 
with me , but if I am not troubled at wilful sin, it is plain I 
am given up to a reprobate mind. 

But what do you mean by ' trusting in them ' ? — looking 
for the blessing of God therein ? believing, that if I wait in 
this way, I shall attain what otherwise I should not ? So I 
do. And so I will, God being my helper, even to my life's 
end. By the grace of God, I will thus trust in them, till the 
day of my death , that is, I will believe, that whatever God 
hath promised, He is faithful also to perform. And seeing He 
hath promised to bless me in this way, I trust it shall be accord- 
ing to His word. 

~ 2. It has been, secondly, objected, ' This is seeking salvation 
by works.' Do you know the meaning of the expression you 
use ? What is seeking salvation by works ? In the writings 
of St. Paul, it means, either seeking to be saved by observing 
the ritual works of the Mosaic law; or expecting salvation 
for the sake of our own works, by the merit of our own right- 
eousness. But how is either of these implied in my waiting in 
the way God has ordained, and expecting that He will meet me 
there, because He has promised so to do ? 

I do expect that He will fulfil His word, that He will meet 
and bless me in this way. Yet not for the sake of any works 
which I have done, nor for the merit of my righteousness , but 
merely through the merits, and sufferings, and love of His Son, 
in whom He is always well pleased. 

3. It has been vehemently objected, thirdly, ' that Christ 
is the only means of grace.' I answer, This is mere playing 
upon words. Explain your term, and the objection vanishes 
away. When we say, ' Prayer is a means of grace,' we under- 
stand a channel through which the grace of God is conveyed. 
When you say, ' Christ is the means of grace,' you understand 

The Means^of Grace 255 

the sole price and purchaser of it , or, that ' no man cometh 
unto the Father, but through Him.' And who denies it ? But 
this is utterly wide of the question. 

4. ' But does not the Scripture ' (it has been objected, 
fourthly) ' direct us to wait for salvation ? Does not David 
say, " My soul waiteth upon God ; for of Him cometh my 
salvation " ? And does not Isaiah teach us the same thing 
saying, " O Lord, we have waited for Thee " ? ' All this 
cannot be denied. Seeing it is the gift of God, we are un- 
doubtedly to wait on Him for salvation. But how shall we 
wait ? If God Himself has appointed a way, can you find a 
better way of waiting for Him ? But that He hath appointed 
a way, hath been shown at large, and also what that way is. 
The very words of the prophet which you cite, put this out of 
all question. For the whole sentence runs thus : ' In the way 
of Thy judgements/ or ordinances, ' O Lord, have we waited 
for Thee' (Isa. xxvi. 8). And in the very same way did 
David wait, as his own words abundantly testify : ' I have 
waited for Thy saving health, O Lord, and have kept Thy law. 
Teach me, O Lord, the way of Thy statutes, and I shall keep 
it unto the end.' 

5. ' Yea/ say some, ' but God has appointed another way : 
" Stand still, and see the salvation of God." ' 

Let us examine the Scriptures to which you refer. The 
first of them, with the context, runs thus, — 

' And when Pharaoh drew nigh, the children of Israel lifted 
up their eyes , and they were sore afraid. And they said unto 
Moses, Because there were no graves in Egypt, hast thou taken 
us away to die in the wilderness ? And Moses said unto the 
people, Fear ye not, stand still, and see the salvation of the 
Lord. And the Lord said unto Moses, Speak unto the children 
of Israel, that they go forward. But lift thou up thy rod, and 
stretch out thine hand over the sea, and divide it ; and the 
children of Israel shall go on dry ground through the midst of 
the sea ' (Exod. xiv. 10, &c). 

This was the salvation of God, which they stood still to see, 
by marching forward with all their might ! 

The other passage, wherein this expression occurs, stands 

256 Sermon XII 

thus : ' There came some that told Jehoshaphat, saying, There 
cometh a great multitude against thee from beyond the sea. 
And Jehoshaphat feared, and set himself to seek the Lord, and 
proclaimed a fast throughout all Judah. And Judah gathered 
themselves together, to ask help of the Lord : even out of all 
the cities they came to seek the Lord. And Jehoshaphat stood 
in the congregation, in the house of the Lord. Then upon 

Jahaziel came the Spirit of the Lord. And he said, Be not 
dismayed by reason of this great multitude. To-morrow go ye 
down against them : ye shall not need to fight in this battle. 
Set yourselves : stand ye still, and see the salvation of the 
Lord. And they rose early in the morning, and went forth. 
And when they began to sing and to praise, the Lord set 
ambushments against the children of Ammon, Moab, and 
mount Seir ; and every one helped to destroy another ' 

(2 Chron. xx. 2, &c.). 

Such was the salvation which the children of Judah saw. 
But how does all this prove, that we ought not to wait for the 
grace of God in the means which He hath ordained ? 

6. I shall mention but one objection more, which, indeed, 
does not properly belong to this head : nevertheless, because 
it has been so frequently urged, I may not wholly pass it by. 

' Does not St. Paul say, "If ye be dead with Christ, why 
are ye subject to ordinances " ? (Col. ii. 20). Therefore, a 
Christian, one that is dead with Christ, need not use the 
ordinances any more.' 

So you say, ' If I am a Christian, I am not subject to the 
ordinances of Christ ' ! Surely, by the absurdity of this, you 
must see at the first glance, that the ordinances here mentioned 
cannot be the ordinances of Christ ; that they must needs be 
the Jewish ordinances, to which it is certain a Christian is no 
longer subject. 

And the same undeniably appears from the words imme- 
diately following, ' Touch not, taste not, handle not ' all 
evidently referring to the ancient ordinances of the Jewish 

So that this objection is the weakest of all. And, in spite 
of all, that great truth must stand unshaken, — that all who 

The Means of Grace 257 

desire the grace of God are to wait for it in the means which 
He hath ordained. 

V 1. But this being allowed, that all who desire the grace 
of God are to wait for it in the means He hath ordained; it 
may still be inquired, how those means should be used, both as 
to the order and the manner of using them. 

With regard to the former, we may observe, there is a 
kind of order, wherein God Himself is generally pleased to use 
these means in bringing a sinner to salvation. A stupid, 
senseless wretch is going on in his own way, not having God 
in all his thoughts, when God comes upon him unawares, 
perhaps by an awakening sermon or conversation, perhaps by 
some awful providence, or, it may be, by an immediate stroke 
of His convincing Spirit, without any outward means at all. 
Having now a desire to flee from the wrath to come, he purposely 
goes to hear how it may be done. If. he finds a preacher who^ 
speaks to the heart, he is amazed, and begins searching the 
Scriptures, whether these things are so. The more he hears 
and reads, the more convinced he is , and the more he meditates 
thereon day and night. Perhaps he finds some other book 
which explains and enforces what he has heard and read in 
Scripture. And by all these means, the arrows of conviction 
sink deeper into his soul. He begins also to talk of the things of 
God, which are ever uppermost in his thoughts ; yea, and to 
talk with God ; to pray to Him , although, through fear and 
shame, he scarce knows what to say. But whether he can 
speak or no, he cannot but pray, were it only in ' groans which 
cannot be uttered.' Yet, being in doubt, whether ' the high 
and lofty One that ihhabiteth eternity' will regard such a 
sinner as him, he wants to pray with those who know God, 
with the faithful, in the great congregation. But here he 
observes others go up to the table of the Lord. He considers, 
' Christ has said, " Do this ! " How is it that I do not ? I 
am too great a sinner. I am not fit. I am not worthy.' 
After struggling with these scruples awhile, he breaks through. 
And thus he continues in God's way, in hearing, reading, medi- 
tating, praying, and partaking of the Lord's supper, till God, 

258 Sermon XII 

in the manner that pleases Him, speaks to his heart, ' Thy 
faith hath saved thee. Go in peace.' 

2. By observing this order of God, we may learn what 
means to recommend to any particular soul. If any of these 
will reach a stupid, careless sinner, it is probably hearing, or 
conversation. To such, therefore, we might recommend these, 
if he has ever any thought about salvation. To one who begins 
to feel the weight of his sins, not only hearing the Word of 
God, but reading it too, and perhaps other serious books, may - 
be a means of deeper conviction. May you not advise him 
also to meditate on what he reads, that it may have its full 
force upon his heart ? Yea, and to speak thereof, and not be 
ashamed, particularly among those who walk in the same path. 
When trouble and heaviness take hold upon him, should you 
not then earnestly exhort him to pour out his soul before God , 

' always to pray and not to faint ' ; and when he feels the 
worthlessness of his own prayers, are you not to work together 
with God, and remind him of going up into the house of the 
Lord, and praying with all that fear Him ? But if he does 
this, the dying word of his Lord will soon be brought to 
his remembrance , a plain intimation, that this is the time 
when we should second the motions of the blessed Spirit. 
And thus may we lead him, step by step, through all the 
means which God has ordained , not according to our own 
will, but just as the providence and the Spirit of God go before 
and open the way. 

3. Yet, as we find no command in holy writ for any 
particular order to be observed herein, so neither do the provi- 
dence and the Spirit of God adhere to any without variation , 
but the means into which different men are led, and in which 
they find the blessing of God, are varied, transposed, and com- 
bined together, a thousand different ways. Yet still our wisdom 
is to follow the leadings of His providence and His Spirit ; to 
be guided herein (more especially as to the means wherein we 
ourselves seek the grace of God), partly by His outward 
providence, giving us the opportunity of using sometimes one 
means, sometimes another, partly by our experience, which it 
is whereby His free Spirit is pleased most to work in our heart. 

The Means of Grace 259 

And in the meantime, the sure and general rule for all who 
groan for the salvation of God is this, — whenever opportunity 
serves, use all the means which God has ordained ; for who 
knows in which God will meet thee with the grace that bringeth 
salvation ? 

4. As to the manner of using them — whereon indeed it 
wholly depends whether they shall convey any grace at all to 
the user — it behoves us, first, always to retain a lively sense, 
that God is above all means. Have a care, therefore, of limit- 
ing the Almighty. He doeth whatsoever and whensoever it 
pleaseth Him. He can convey His grace either in or out of 
any of the means which He hath appointed. Perhaps He will. 
' Who hath known the mind of the Lord ? or who hath been 
His counsellor ? ' Look, then, every moment for His appear- 
ing ! Be it at the hour you are employed in His ordinances , 
or before, or after that hour ; or when you are hindered there- 
from. He is not hindered , He is always ready, always able, 
always willing to save. ' It is the Lord let Him do what 
seemeth Him good ! ' 

Secondly. Before you use any means, let it be deeply im- 
pressed on your soul, — there is no power in this. It is, in 
itself, a poor, dead, empty thing : separate from God, it is a 
dry leaf, a shadow. Neither is there any merit in my using 
this , nothing intrinsically pleasing to God , nothing whereby 
I deserve any favour at His hands, no, not a drop of water to 
cool my tongue. But, because God bids, therefore I do; be- 
cause He directs me to wait in this way, therefore here I wait 
for His free mercy, whereof cometh my salvation. 

Settle this in your heart, that the opus operatum, the mere 
work done, profiteth nothing ; that there is no power to save, 
_Jaut in the Spirit of ..God, no me rit bu t in the blood of Christy 
that, consequently, even what God ordains, conveys no grace 
to the soul, if you trust not in Him alone. On the other hand, 
he that does truly trust in Him cannot fall short of the grace 
of God, even though he were cut off from every outward ordi- 
nance, though he were shut up in the centre of the earth. 

Thirdly. In using all means, seek God alone. In and 
through every outward thing, look singly to the power of His 

260 Sermon XII 

Spirit, and the merits of His Son. Beware you do not stick 
in the work itself , if you do, it is all lost labour. Nothing 
short of God can satisfy your soul. Therefore, eye Him in all, 
through all, and above all. 

Remember also, to use all means as means ; as ordained, not 
for their own sake, but in order to the renewal of your soul 
in righteousness and true holiness. If, therefore, they actually 
tend to this, well ; but, if not, they are dung and dross. 

Lastly. After you have used any of these, take care how 
you value yourself thereon , how you congratulate yourself 
as having done some great thing. This is turning all into 
poison. Think, ' If God was not there, what does this avail ? 
Have I not been adding sin to sin ? How long ? O Lord, 
save, or I perish ! O lay not this sin to my charge ! ' If 
God was there, if His love flowed into your heart, you have 
forgot, as it were, the outward work. You see, you know, 
you feel, God is all in all. Be abased. Sink down before 
Him. Give Him all the praise. ' Let God in all things be 
glorified through Christ Jesus.' Let all your^bones cry out, 
' My song shall be always of the lovingkindness of the Lord : 
with my mouth will I ever be telling of Thy truth from one 
generation to another ! ' 

4. The Canon of the Council of the mere administration of them, 

Trent on this subject runs : ' Si quis quite apart from faith in the re- 

dixerit per ipsa novae legis sacra- cipient, confers grace. The 25th 

menta ex opere operato non conferri Article of the Church of England 

gratiam sed solam fidem divinae affirms of the Sacraments, ' In such 

promissionis ad gratiam consequen- only as worthily receive the same 

dam sufhcere, anathema sit,' i.e. ' If they have a wholesome effect or 

any one shall affirm that grace is operation ' ; and Article XXIX 

not conferred through the actual affirms, ' The wicked, and such as 

sacraments of the New Law as the be void of a lively faith, although 

result of their actual administration, they do carnally and visibly press 

but that faith alone in the divine with their teeth (as Saint Augustine 

promise is enough to obtain grace, saith) the Sacrament of the Body 

let him be anathema.' In one sense and Blood of Christ, yet in no wise 

this need not mean more than that are they partakers of Christ ; but 

faith alone without the sacraments is rather, to their condemnation do 

not sufficient ; but it has been more eat and drink the Sacrament of so 

usually interpreted as teaching that great a thing.' 

[Here ends the first volume of the Sermons] 


O N 

Several Occafions; 

I N 


B y 

Fellow of Lincoln-College 3 Oxford. 



Printed by W. Strahan: And fold by 
T Trye, near GrayVInn Gate, Holbourn % 
and at the Foundery, near Upper Moorfields. 

Facsimile of Titlepage to First Edition. 

The volume (12W0, pp. 312) contains twelve sermons, 
Nos. XIII to XXIV. Second edition, Bristol : John Grab- 
ham, no date. Identical with the first edition. A list of 
' Books published by Mr. John and Charles Wesley ' fills 
four pages at the end and contains eighty-four items. 
Third edition, Bristol, Pine, 1769 ,• Fourth, Par amor e, 
1787 ; Fifth, 1797. 

No Contents : no Index. The contents of the volume 
are unchanged in all editions published during Wesley's 
life, save that in the collected edition of his works pub- 
lished in 1 771, the sermon on ' The Lord our Righteousness ' 
is inserted. 


Preached at St. Mary's, Oxford, before the University, 

on January i, 1733 

As Wesley placed his sermon before the University on Salvation by 
Faith first in his first volume, so he began the second with another 
of his University sermons, preached at St. Mary's, Oxford, on January 1, 
1733. It may be well to recall that he became a student at Christ 
Church in 1720 ; decided to take Orders, and was ordained deacon 
in 1725, and began to study Jeremy Taylor's Holy Living and Holy 
Dying, and Thomas a Kempis's De Imitatione Christi, with the result 
that he resolved to ' give my heart, yea, all my heart; to God ' ; 'to 
dedicate all my life to God, all my thoughts, and words, and actions ' ; 
and this he proceeded to do with characteristic thoroughness. It is 
not too much to speak of this as his first conversion ; though it was 
not till May 24, 1738, that he received the consciousness that his sins 
were forgiven, and the witness of the Spirit that he was a child of 
God. But during the intervening years, though in his Georgia Journal 
he says that he was not a Christian, his maturer reflection led him to 
the more just conclusion that he was all this time a servant of God, 
though he had not yet the faith of a son. His first sermon, of which 
happily the MS. has been preserved, and was published in facsimile in 
1903, was preached at South Leigh, a village near Witney, about ten 
miles west of Oxford, on Matt. vi. 33. A photograph of the little church 
may be seen in the Standard edition of the Journal, i. 63. On Wednes- 
day, October 16, 1771, he says: ' I preached at South Leigh. Here it 
was that I preached my first sermon six and forty years ago. One 
man was in my present audience who heard it.' The earliest of his 
published sermons (in the posthumous fifth series) was a funeral dis- 
course on the death of young Robin Griffiths, preached at Broadway 
(not, as is stated in the printed edition, at Epworth) on February 15, 
1727. It was on 2 Sam. xii. 23, and is numbered CXXXV, and entitled 
On Mourning for the Dead. In 1726 he was elected a Fellow of 
Lincoln College, and in 1727 took his Master's degree ; and in this 
same year he tells us, ' I read Mr. Law's Christian Perfection and 
Serious Call, and more explicitly resolved to be all devoted to God # 
in body, soul, and spirit.' 


264 Sermon XIII 

From August 1727 to November 1729 he was at Epworth and 
Wroot, acting as his father's curate, and in 1728 was ordained priest 
at Oxford by Bishop Potter. One sermon from this period has been 
preserved on 2 Cor. ii. 17, and was published as No. CXXXVI in 
the fifth (posthumous) series. In November 1729 he was summoned 
back to Oxford by Dr. Morley, the Rector of Lincoln, and he con- 
tinued in residence there until he went to Georgia in 1735. He found 
that his brother Charles had gathered a few students round him at 
Christ Church for the cultivation of the spiritual life, and he at once 
became the head of this little society, which had already received 
the nickname of ' Meth o dist. .' jf rn-m some University wag. It is not 
necessary to describe again their devotion, their self-sacrifice, their strict 
attention to all ecclesiastical rules, their diligent study of the Bible, 
and above all their charity to the poor and their ministrations to the 
prisoners in the jail. Their one guide was the Bible ; and it was in 
1730 that John Wesley says he ' began to be homo unius libri, to 
study (comparatively) no book but the Bible.' ^Inj^^Jie^ wrote a 
sermon for his pupils On the Duty of Constant Communion, which 
he afterwards published iri the Arminian Magazine, 1787, p. "229, 
and republished in the edition of the sermons in 1788, No. CI, with 
this note : ' The following discourse was written about five and fifty 
years ago, for the use of my pupils at Oxford. I have added very 
little, but retrenched much ; as I then used more words than I do 
now. But I thank God, I have not yet seen cause to alter my senti- 
ments, in any point which is therein delivered.' In July 1732 he paid 
a visit to William Law at Putney, and no doubt their intercourse 
deepened the strong impression which Law's works had already pro- 
duced upon him, and he began to study the Theologia Germanica and 
other writings of the Mystics. Meantime, the Oxford Methodists had 
come more and more into the public eye ; and in Fogg's Journal of 
December 9, 1732, an abusive attack on them appeared, in which 
they were charged with asceticism, voluntary affliction of their bodies, 
fasting strictly twice a week, rising at four every morning, singing 
hymns for two hours every day, and in short ' practising everything 
contrary to the judgement of other persons.' The writer thinks their 
motives are poverty, hypocrisy used as a veil for vice, enthusiasm, 
madness, and superstitious scruples. It was immediately after this 
ribald attack that Wesley was called upon to preach his first sermon 
before the University on New Year's Day ,1733 — the sermon now 
under consideration. He thought well of it; and I& Journal, Sep- 
tember 1, 1778, he says : ' I know not that I can write a better [sermon] 
on the Circumcision of the Heart than I did five and forty years ago. 
Perhaps, indeed, I may have read five or six hundred books more 
than I had then, and may know a little more history or natural phil- 
osophy than I did ; but I am not sensible that this has made any 

The Circumcision of the Heart 265 

essential addition to my knowledge in divinity. Forty years ago I 
knew and preached every Christian doctrine which I preach now.' 
It will be noted that this latter date only goes back to 1738, when 
he first grasped the truth of conscious salvation by faith. In a letter 
to a friend written in May 1765 he says : ' January 1, 1733, I preached 
the sermon on the Circumcision of the Heart, which contains all that 
I now teach concerning salvation from all sin, and loving God with an 
undivided heart. In the same year I printed (the first time I ventured 
to print anything) for the use of my pupils, A Collection of Forms of 
Prayer, and in this I spoke explicitly of giving " the whole heart and 
the whole life to God." This was then, as it is now, my idea of per- 
fection, though I should have started at the word.' 

The sermon was not published until it appeared in the second 
volume of sermons in 1748 ; and in a footnote Wesley explains 
that he has added to the sermon as originally preached the latter half 
of i. 7, in which saving faith is defined as he came to understand it 
in 1738. The influence of Jeremy Taylor and William Law is very 
perceptible throughout, especially in the prominence given to humility, 
which takes precedence even of the Pauline triad, faith, hope, and 

Wesley wrote in this same year a sermon on Eph. iv. 30, which was 
published in the Arminian Magazine, 1798, p. 607, and included as 
No. CXXXVIII in the fifth (posthumous) series. It is noteworthy 
that both in this and the previous sermon the doctrine of the witness 
of the Spirit is explicitly taught. To complete the record for this 
period, he preached before the University on June 11, 1734, what 
Charles calls his ' Jacobite sermon,' of which little seems to be known, 
except that it was submitted to the Vice-Chancellor beforehand and 
allowed by him. On Sunday, September 21, 1735, he preached before 
the University on Job iii. 17, and at the request of several of the 
hearers it was published the same year by C. Rivington — Wesley's 
first published sermon. It appears as No. CXXVII in the fourth 
(posthumous) series under the title of The Trouble and Rest of 
Good Men ; and is remarkable for its statement that perfect holiness 
is not found on earth, but that death shall destroy at once the whole 
body of sin. The original edition is a fine bit of typography; quite 
the best printed of any of Wesley's publications. It is mistakenly 
given by Heylin as from Prov. iii. 17, under the title of The Pleasant- 
ness of a Religious Life. Finally, we have Sermon CXLI, On the 
Holy Spirit, from 2 Cor. iii. 17, the last in the fifth (posthumous) 
series, which is said in the heading \o have been preached at St. Mary's, 
Oxford, on Whit Sunday, 1736. Wesley was in Frederica on that 
date (June 13, 1736), meeting the first society in America; he reckons 
this day as the second birthday of Methodism. So either the editor 
of the sermon was mistaken in his date, or the sermon was read at 

2 66 

Sermon XIII 

Oxford by Wesley's substitute — which is quite possible. On internal 
evidence the sermon may well have been written by him before he 
left England. 

Circumcision is that of the heart, in the spirit, and not in the letter. — 

Rom. ii. 29. 

1. It is the melancholy remark of an excellent man, that he 
who now preaches the most essential duties of Christianity runs 
the hazard of being esteemed, by a great part of his hearers, 
' a setter forth of new doctrines.' Most men have so lived 
away the substance of that religion, the profession whereof 
they still retain, that no sooner are any of those truths pro- 
posed which difference the Spirit of Christ from the spirit 
of the world, than they cry out, ' Thou bringest strange 
things to our ears ; we would know what these things mean ' ' 
though he is only preaching to them ' Jesus and the resur- 
rection,' with the necessary consequence of it,-^If^Christ be^ 
risen, ye ought then to die unto the world, and to live wholly^ 
"unto God. 

Par. 1. Wesley has a very tan- 
talizing habit of quoting authorities 
in this vague way. Who was this 
' excellent man ' ? Samuel Wesley, 
senior ? or William Law, with whom 
Wesley had had conversations at 
his home in Putney a few months 
before this ? Non liquet ! But his 
statement can be abundantly con- 
firmed. Bishop Butler, writing in 
the Analogy (Preface, section 2) 
three years after this, says : ' It is 
come to be taken for granted, 

by many persons, that Christianity 
is not so much as a subject of in- 
quiry ; but that it is, now at length, 
discovered to be fictitious. And 
accordingly they treat it, as if 
nothing remained, but to set it up as 
a principal subject of mirth and ridi- 
cule.' In his charge to the clergy 
of Durham in 1751 he laments ' the 
general decay of religion in this 
nation, which is now observed by 

every one.' Not to multiply quota- 
tions, I will only add Lecky's sum- 
mary of the matter in England in 
the Eighteenth Century, I. i. p. 84 : 
' The more doctrinal aspects of re- 
ligion were softened down, or suffered 
silently to recede, and, before the 
eighteenth century had much ad- 
vanced, sermons had very generally 
become mere moral essays, charac- 
terized chiefly by a cold good sense, 
and appealing almost exclusively to 
prudential motives. It was only 

towards the close of the century that 
the influence of the Methodist move- 
ment, extending gradually through 
the Established Church, introduced 
a more emotional, and at the same 
time a more dogmatic, type of preach- 
ing.' Dr. Townsend's chapter on 
* The Time and Conditions ' (New 
History of Methodism, Book I. i.) 
should be consulted. 

The Circumcision of the Heart 267 

2. A hard saying this to the natural man, who is alive 
unto the world, and dead unto God; and one that he will 
not readily be persuaded to receive as the truth of God, unless 
it be so qualified in the interpretation, as to have neither use 
nor significancy left. He ' receiveth not the ' words ' of the 
Spirit of God,' taken in their plain and obvious meaning , 
' they are foolishness unto him : neither ' indeed ' can he 
know them, because they are spiritually discerned ' : they are 
perceivable only by that spiritual sense, which in him was 
never yet awakened , for want of which he must reject, as idle 
fancies of men, what are both the wisdom and the power 
of God. 

3. That ' circumcision is that of the heart, in the spirit, 
and not in the letter ' — that the distinguishing mark of a true 
follower of Christ, of one who is in a state of acceptance with 
God, is not either outward circumcision, or baptism, or any 
other outward form, but a right state of soul, a mind and spirit 
renewed after the image of Him that created it — is one of 
those important truths that can only be spiritually discerned. 
And this the Apostle himself intimates in the next words 

1 Whose praise is not of men, but of God.' As if he had 
said, ' Expect not, whoever thou art, who thus followest thy 
great Master, that the world, the men who follow Him not, 
will say, " Well done, good and faithful servant ! " Know 
that the circumcision of the heart, the seal of thy calling, is fool- 
ishness with the world. Be content to wait for thy applause 
till the day of thy Lord's appearing. In that day shalt thou 
have praise of God, in the great assembly of men and angels.' 
I design, first, particularly to inquire, wherein this circum- 
cision of the heart consists; and, secondly, to mention some 
reflections that naturally arise from such an inquiry. 

I. 1. I am, first, to inquire, wherein that circumcision of 
the heart consists, which will receive the praise of God. In 
general we may observe, it is that habitual disposition of soul 
which, in the sacred writings, is termed holiness , and which 
directly implies, the being cleansed from sin, ' from all filthi- 
ness both of flesh and spirit ' ; and, by consequence, the being 

268 Sermon XIII 

endued with those virtues which were also in Christ Jesus , 
the being so ' renewed in the spirit of our mind,' as to be 
' perfect as our Father in heaven is perfect.' 

2. To be more particular : circumcision of heart implies 
humility, faith, hope, and charity. Humility, a right judge- 
ment of ourselves, cleanses our minds from those high con- 
ceits of our own perfections, from that undue opinion of our 
own abilities and attainments, which are the genuine fruit of 
a corrupted nature. This entirely cuts off that vain thought, 
' I am rich, and wise, and have need of nothing ' ; and con- 
vinces us that we are by nature ' wretched, and poor, and 
miserable, and blind, and naked,' It convinces us, that in 
our best estate we are, of ourselves, all sin and vanity ; that 
confusion, and ignorance, and error reign over our understand- 
ing , that unreasonable, earthly, sensual, devilish passions usurp 
authority over our will ; in a word, that there is no whole part 
in our soul, that all the foundations of our nature are out of 

3. At the same time we are convinced, that we are not 
sufficient of ourselves to help ourselves , that, without the 
Spirit of God, we can do nothing but add sin to sin ; that it 
is He alone who worketh in us by His almighty power, either 
to will or do that which is good , it being as impossible for us 
even to think a good thought, without the supernatural assist- 
ance of His Spirit, as to create ourselves, or to renew our whole 
souls in righteousness and true holiness. 

4. A sure effect of our having formed this right judgement 
of the sinfulness and helplessness of our nature, is a disregard 
of that ' honour which cometh of man,' which is usually paid 
to some supposed excellency in us. He who knows himself, 
neither desires nor values the applause which he knows he 
deserves not. It is therefore ' a very small thing with him, to 
be judged by man's judgement.' He has all reason to think, 

I. 2. ' Conceits,' i.e., conceptions, Graces. Indeed, this section of the 

ideas — the original meaning of the sermon is based almost entirely on 

word. chapter xvi of the Serious Call, 

The influence of Law is clearly dis- which should be consulted by the 

cernible in the position given to student, 
humility as the first of the Christian 

The Circumcision of the Heart 269 

by comparing what it has said, either for or against him, with 
what he feels in his own breast, that the world, as well as the 
god of this world, was ' a liar from the beginning.' And even 
as to those who are not of the world , though he would choose, 
if it were the will of God, that they should account of him as 
of one desirous to be found a faithful steward of his Lord's 
goods, if haply this might be a means of enabling him to be of 
more use to his fellow servants, yet as this is the one end of his 
wishing for their approbation, so he does not at all rest upon 
it : for he is assured, that whatever God wills, he can never 
want instruments to perform ; since He is able, even of these 
stones, to raise up servants to do His pleasure. 

5. This is that lowliness of mind, which they have learned 
of Christ, who follow His example and tread in His steps. And 
this knowledge of their disease, whereby they are more and more 
cleansed from one part of it, pride and vanity, disposes 
them to embrace, with a willing mind, the second thing implied 
in circumcision of the heart, — that faith wEcTTalon^is-able ~ro~- 
make thern~~whofer-"which is the one medicine given under 
heaven to heal their sickness. 

6. The best guide of the blind, the surest light of them 
that are in darkness, the most perfect instructor of the foolish, 
is faith. But it must be such a faith as is ' mighty through 
God, to the pulling down of strongholds ' — to the overturning 
all the prejudices of corrupt reason, all the false maxims 
revered among men, all evil customs and habits, all that 
' wisdom of the world which is foolishness with God ' , as 
' casteth down imaginations,' reasonings, ' and every high 
thing that exalteth itself against the knowledge of God, and 
bringeth into captivity every thought to the obedience of 

7. ' All things are possible to him that ' thus ' believeth.' 
' The eyes of his understanding being enlightened,' he sees 
what is his calling , even to glorify God, who hath bought 
him with so high a price, in his body and in his spirit, which 

7. The second part of this para- edition of the sermon in Vol. II of 
graph (' but likewise the forgive- the sermons (1748); and it should 
ness of sins ') was added in the be compared with the testimony 


Sermon XIII 

now are God's by redemption, as well as by creation. He 
feels what is ' the exceeding greatness of His power,' who, 
as He raised up Christ from the dead, so is able to quicken 
us, dead in sin, ' by His Spirit which dwelleth in us.' ' This 
is the victory which overcometh the world, even our faith ' ; 
that faith, which is not only an unshaken assent to all that 
God hath revealed in Scripture — and in particular to those 
important truths, ' Jesus Christ came into the world to save 
sinners,' ' He bare our sins in His own body on the tree,' 
' He is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only, 
but also for the sins of the whole world,' — but likewise the 
revelation of Christ in our hearts , a divine evidence or con- 
viction of His love, His free, unmerited love to me a sinner ; a 
sure confidence in His pardoning mercy, wrought in us by the 
Holy Ghost ; a confidence, whereby every true believer is 
enabled to bear witness, ' I know that my Redeemer liveth,' that 

given in the Journal, May 24, 1738 : 
' I felt I did trust in Christ, Christ 
alone for salvation ; and an assur- 
ance was given me that He had 
taken away my sins, even mine, and 
saved me from the law of sin and 
death.' Compare also the definition 
in Sermon V, iv. 2 : ' Justifying faith 
implies not only a divine evidence 
or conviction that " God was in 
Christ, reconciling the world unto 
Himself " ; but a sure trust and 
confidence that Christ died for my 
sins, that He loved me, and gave 
Himself for me.' He had not found 
this in Law ; and he wrote a letter 
to him on May 14, 1738, in which he 
says, ' For two years (more especi- 
ally) I have been preaching after the 
model of your two practical trea- 
tises ; and all that heard have 
allowed that the law is great, won- 
derful, and holy. But no sooner 
did they attempt to fulfil it, but 
they found that it is too high for 
man ; and that by doing " the 
works of the law shall no flesh living 

be justified." ' He goes on to com- 
plain bitterly that Law had never 
advised him to trust in Christ for 
salvation ; and he explains this by 
the supposition that Law had never 
had justifying faith himself ; and 
that this is the reason of his ' ex- 
treme roughness, and morose and 
sour behaviour.' The tone of the 
letter is most unfortunate, considering 
how much Wesley owed to the older 
man ; and the patience and humility 
of Law p s answer ought to have 
made his critic ashamed of himself, 
though his answer to it gives no 
sign of regret or apology. The 
whole correspondence may be read 
in Appendix XXVI to the Standard 
edition of the Journal. Wesley's 
tone is regrettable, indeed indefen- 
sible'; but the substance of his 
criticism is right : Law's books are 
admirably calculated to convince 
the sinner and to stimulate the be- 
liever ; but they do not show the 
way of salvation. 

The Circumcision of the Heart 271 

I have an ' Advocate with the Father,' and that ' Jesus Christ 
the righteous ' is my Lord, and ' the propitiation for my sins ' 
—I know He hath ' loved me, and given Himself for me ' — 
He hath reconciled me, even me, to God ; and I ' have redemp- 
tion through His blood, even the forgiveness of sins.' 

8. Such a faith as this cannot fail to show evidently the 
power of Him that inspires it, by delivering His children from 
the yoke of sin, and ' purging their consciences from dead 
works ' , by strengthening them so, that they are no longer 
constrained to obey sin in the desires thereof , but instead of 
' yielding their members unto it, as instruments of unrighteous- 
ness,' they now ' yield themselves ' entirely ' unto God, as 
those that are alive from the dead.' 

9. Those who are thus by faith born of God have also strong 
consolation through hope. This is the next thing which the 
circumcision of the heart implies , even the testimony of their 
own spirit with the Spirit which witnesses in their hearts 
that they are the children of God. Indeed it is the same 
Spirit who works in them that clear and cheerful confidence 
that their heart is upright toward God , that good assurance, 
that they now do, through His grace, the things which are 
acceptable in His sight ; that they are now in the path which 
leadeth to life, and shall, by the mercy of God, endure therein 
to the end. It is He who giveth them a lively expectation of 
receiving all good things at God's hand , a joyous prospect of 
that crown of glory which is reserved in heaven for them. By 
this anchor a Christian is kept steady in the midst of the waves 
of this troublesome world, and preserved from striking upon 
either of those fatal rocks, — presumption or despair. He is 
neither discouraged by the misconceived severity of his Lord, 
nor does he ' despise the riches of His goodness.' He neither 
apprehends the difficulties of the race set before him to be 
greater than he has strength to conquer, nor expects them to 
be so little as to yield in the conquest till he has put forth all 
his strength. The experience he already has in the Christian 
warfare, as it assures him his ' labour is not in vain,' if ' what- 
ever his hand findeth to do, he doeth it with his might ' , so 
it forbids his entertaining so vain a thought, as that he can 

272 Sermon XIII 

otherwise gain any advantage ; as that any virtue can be 
shown, any praise attained, by faint hearts and feeble hands ; 
or, indeed, by any but those who pursue the same course with 
the great Apostle of the Gentiles : ' I,' says he, ' so run, not 
as uncertainly ; so fight I, not as one that beateth the air : 
but I keep under my body, and bring it into subjection ; lest, 
by any means, when I have preached to others, I myself should 
be a castaway.' 

10. By the same discipline is every good soldier of Christ to 
inure himself to endure hardship. Confirmed and strengthened 
by this, he will be able not only to renounce the works of dark- 
ness, but every appetite too, and every affection, which is not 
subject to the law of God. For ' every one,' saith St. John, 
' who hath this hope, purifieth himself even as He is pure.' It 
is his daily care, by the grace of God in Christ, and through 
the blood of the covenant, to purge the inmost recesses of his 
soul from the lusts that before possessed and defiled it ; from 
uncleanness, and envy, and malice, and wrath ; from every 
passion and temper that is after the flesh, that either springs 
from or cherishes his native corruption : as well knowing, that 
he whose very body is the temple of God, ought to admit into 
it nothing common or unclean ; and that holiness becometh 
that house for ever, where the Spirit of holiness vouchsafes to 

11. Yet lackest thou one thing, whosoever thou art, that 
to a deep humility, and a steadfast faith, hast joined a lively 
hope, and thereby in a good measure cleansed thy heart from 
its inbred pollution. If thou wilt be perfect, add to all these, 
charity , add love, and thou hast the circumcision of the heart. 
' Love is the fulfilling of the law, the end of the commandment.' 
Very excellent things are spoken of love , it is the essence, the 
spirit, the life of all virtue. It is not only the first and great 
command, but it is all the commandments in one. ' Whatso- 
ever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever 
things are amiable,' or honourable , ' if there be any virtue, 

9. The A.V. of 1 Cor. ix. 27 is very blue) ' my body, and treat it as a 
inadequate. The words mean ' I bond-slave.' The figure of the prize- 
buffet ' (or bruise, beat black and fight in the previous verse is kept up. 

The Circumcision of the Heart 


if there be any praise,' they are all comprised in this one word, 
— love. In this is perfection, and glory, and happiness. The 
royal law of heaven and earth is this, ' Thou shalt love the 
Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with 
all thy mind, and with all thy strength.' 

12. Not that this forbids us to love anything besides God : 
it implies that we love our brother also. Nor yet does it forbid 
us (as some have strangely imagined) to take pleasure in any- 
thing but God. To suppose this, is to suppose the Fountain 
of holiness is directly the author of sin , since He has insepar- 
ably annexed pleasure to the use of those creatures which are 
necessary to sustain the life He has given us. This, therefore, 
can never be the meaning of His command. What the real 
sense of it is, both our blessed Lord and His Apostles tell us 
too frequently, and too plainly, to be misunderstood. They 
all with one mouth bear witness, that the true meaning of those 
several declarations, ' The Lord thy God is one Lord ' ; ' Thou 
shalt have no other gods but Me'; ' Thou shalt love the Lord 
thy God with all thy strength ' ; ' Thou shalt cleave unto 
Him ' ; ' The desire of thy soul shall be to His name,' is no 
other than this The one perfect Good shall be your one ultimate 
end. One thing shall ye desire for its own sake, — the fruition 
of Him that is All in all. One happiness shall ye propose to 
your souls, even an union with Him that made them , the 
having ' fellowship with the Father and the Son ' ; the being 
joined to the Lord in one Spirit. One design you are to pursue 
to the end of time,— the enjoyment of God in time and in 
eternity. Desire other things, so far as they tend to this. 
Love the creature, as it leads to the Creator. But in every 
step you take, be this the glorious point that terminates your 
view. Let every affection, and thought, and word, and work, 

12. This is Wesley's answer to the 
charge in Fogg's Journal which had 
appeared in the previous month 
against the Oxford Methodists : 
' They avoid, as much as possible, 
every object that may affect them 
with any pleasant or grateful sen- 
sations. All social entertainments 

I— 18 

and diversions are disapproved of ; 
and, in endeavouring to avoid luxury, 
they not only exclude what is con- 
venient, but what is absolutely 
necessary for the support of life ; 
fancying (as is thought) that religion 
was designed to contradict nature.' 

274 Sermon XIII 

be subordinate to this. Whatever ye desire or fear, whatever 
ye seek or shun, whatever ye think, speak or do, be it in order 
to your happiness in God, the sole End, as well as Source, of 
your being. 

13. Have no end, no ultimate end, but God. Thus our 
Lord : ' One thing is needful ' , and if thine eye be singly 
fixed on this one thing, ' thy whole body shall be full of light.' 
Thus St. Paul : ' This one thing I do , I press toward the mark, 
for the prize of the high calling in Christ Jesus.' Thus St. 
James : ' Cleanse your hands, ye sinners ; and purify your 
hearts, ye double-minded.' Thus St. John : ' Love not the 
world, neither the things that are in the world. For all that 
is in the world, the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eye, and 
the pride of life, is not of the Father, but is of the world.' The 
seeking happiness in what gratifies either the desire of the 
flesh, by agreeably striking upon the outward senses ; the 
desire of the eye, of the imagination, by its novelty, greatness, 
or beauty , or the pride of life, whether by pomp, grandeur, 
power, or, the usual consequence of them, applause and admira- 
tion, — ' is not of the Father,' cometh not from, neither is 
approved by, the Father of spirits : ' but of the world ' ; it is 
the distinguishing mark of those who will not have Him to 
reign over them. 

II. 1. Thus have I particularly inquired, what that circum- 
cision of heart is, which will obtain the praise of God. I am, 
in the second place, to mention some reflections that naturally 
arise from such an inquiry, as a plain rule whereby every man 
may judge of himself, whether he be of the world or of God. 

And, first, it is clear from what has been said, that no man ^ 
has a title to the praise of God, unless his heart is circumcised 
by humility ; unless he is little, and base, and vile in his own 
eyes ; unless he is deeply convinced of that inbred ' corruption 
of his nature,' 'whereby he is very far gone from original 
righteousness,' being prone to all evil, averse to all good, 

II. i. Article IX of the Church of nature of every man . , . whereby man 
England runs : ' Original sin is is very far gone from original right - 

the fault and corruption of the eousness.' 

The Circumcision of the Heart 


corrupt and abominable , having a ' carnal mind which is 
enmity against God, and is not subject to the law of God, nor 
indeed can be ' ; unless he continually feels in his inmost soul, 
that without the Spirit of God resting upon him, he can neither 
think, nor desire, nor speak, nor act anything good, or well- 
pleasing in His sight. 

No man, I say, has a title to the praise of God, till he feels 
his want jof God ; nor indeed, till he seeketh that ' honour 
which cometh~6TGod~ r only , and neither desires nor pursues 
that which cometh of man, unless so far only as it tends to 

2. Another truth, which naturally follows from what has 
been said, is, that none shall obtain the honour ±hat cometh- 
of God, unless his Heart be circumcised by faith , even a ' faith 
-of the operation of God ' , unless, refusing to be any longer^ 
led by his senses, appetites, or passions, or even by that blind 
leader of the blind, so idolized by the world, natural reason, 
he lives and walks by faith , directs every step, as ' seeing 
Him that is invisible ' , ' looks not at the things that are 
seen, which are temporal, but at the things that are not seen, 
which are eternal ' , and governs all his desires, designs, and 
thoughts, all his actions and conversations, as one who is 
entered in within the veil, where Jesus sits at the right hand 
of God. 

3. It were to be wished, that they were better acquainted 
with this faith who employ much of their time and pains in 
laying another foundation ; in grounding religion on the 
eternal fitness of things, on the intrinsic excellence of virtue, 
and the beauty of actions flowing from it ; on the reasons, as 
they term them, of good and evil, and the relations, of beings 
to each other. Either these accounts of the grounds of Chris- 
tian duty coincide with the scriptural, or not. If they do, 

3. This criticism of ethical phil- 
osophy is unreasonable. The foun- 
dation of Christian ethics is faith in 
Christ, and its rules are to be found 
in the Scriptures ; but that does not 
in any way forbid us to inquire into 
the reason why certain actions are 

there prescribed as right, and others 
condemned as wrong. Christianity 
is a reasonable religion ; and right 
actions are not right because they 
are prescribed in the Bible ; they 
are prescribed in the Bible because 
they are right. Wesley is aiming 


Sermon XIII 

why are well-meaning men perplexed, and drawn from the 
weightier matters of the law, by a cloud of terms, whereby 
the easiest truths are explained into obscurity ? If they are 
not, then it behoves them to consider who is the author of 
this new doctrine ; whether he is likely to be an angel from 
heaven, who preacheth another gospel than that of Christ 
Jesus ; though, if he were, God, not we, hath pronounced 
his sentence ' Let him be accursed.' 

4. Our gospel, as it knows no other foundation of good 
works than faith, or of faith than Christ, so it clearly informs 
us, we are not His disciples while we either deny Him to be the 
Author, or His Spirit to be the Inspirer and Perfect er, both of 
our faith and works. ' If any man have not the Spirit of 
Christ, he is none of his.' He alone can quicken those who 
are dead unto God, can breathe into them the breath of Chris- 
tian life, and so prevent, accompany, and follow them with 
His grace, as to bring their good desires to good effect. And, 
' as many as are thus led by the Spirit of God, they are the 
sons of God.' This is God's short and plain account of true 
religion and virtue , and ' other foundation can no man lay.' 

5. From what has been said, we may, thirdly, 2^rn J _thaju 
none is truly 'led by the Spirit,' unless that 'Spirit bear 
witness witff his spirit, that he is a child oFGod ' , unLesshe 
see the prize and the crown before him, andJ..xei2i^ m honejaf/ 
the glory of God.' So greatly have they erred who have taught 

especially at Samuel Clarke, who in 
his Boyle Lectures, published in 
1705, maintained that ' from the 
necessary and eternal different rela- 
tions that different things bear to 
one another result fitness and unfit- 
ness of the application of different 
things or different relations one to 
another ' ; and that this intuitively 
discerned fitness is the foundation of 
the principles of morality. Hence 
he held that a rational creature, as 
such, must act in conformity with 
its cognition of moral truth ; but 
mankind having become unnatur- 
ally corrupted, future rewards and 

questions in 

punishments are necessary as the 
sanctions of virtue. We find the 
same impatience of 
inquiry into ethical 
Sermon XI, 3. 

5. It is curious to find this un- 
equivocal statement of the necessity 
for the witness of the Spirit at this 

The reference in the next sentence 
is to Cudworth and the Cambridge 
Platonists, who taught that man 
ought to aim at the realization of 
absolute good for its own sake, 
without any regard for its conse- 

The Circumcision of the Heart 277 

that, in serving God, we ought not to have a view to our own 
happiness ! Nay, but we are often and expressly taught of 
God, to have ' respect unto the recompense of reward ' , to 
balance the toil with the ' joy set before us,' these ' light 
afflictions ' with that ' exceeding weight of glory/ Yea, we 
are ' aliens to the covenant of promise,' we are ' without God 
in the world,' until God, ' of His abundant mercy, hath begotten 
us again unto a living hope of the inheritance incorruptible, 
undefiled, and that fadeth not away.' 

6. But if these things are so, it is high time for those persons 
to deal faithfully with their own souls, who are so far from 
finding in themselves this joyful assurance that they fulfil 
the terms, and shall obtain the promises, of that covenant, 
as to quarrel with the covenant itself, and blaspheme the 
terms of it , to complain, they are too severe ; and that no 
man ever did or shall live up to them. What is this but to 
reproach God, as if He were an hard Master, requiring of His 
'servants more than He enables them to perform ?— as if He had 
mocked the helpless works of His hands, by binding them to im- 
possibilities ; by commanding them to overcome, where neither 
their own strength nor His grace was sufficient for them ? 

7. These blasphemers might almost persuade those to imagine 
themselves guiltless, who, in the contrary extreme, hope to 
fulfil the commands of God without taking any pains at all. 
Vain hope ! that a child of Adam should ever expect to see 
the kingdom of Christ and of God without striving, without 
agonizing, first ' to enter in at the strait gate ' ; that one who 
was ' conceived and born in sin/ and whose ' inward parts are 
very wickedness,' should once entertain a thought of being 
' purified as his Lord is pure,' unless he tread in His steps, and 
' take up his cross daily,' unless he ' cut off his right hand,' 
and ' pluck out the right eye, and cast it from him ' , that he 
should ever dream of shaking off his old opinions, passions, 

7. This paragraph seems to teach it was his view at this time, and he 

that it is possible for a man to attain exemplified it in his practice. He 

entire sanctification by his own was still seeking salvation by the 

effort and self-denial. This Wesley works of the law. 
afterwards strenuously denied ; but 


Sermon XIII 

tempers, of being ' sanctified throughout in spirit, soul, and 
body/ without a constant and continued course of general self- 
denial ! 

8. What less than this can we possibly infer from the 
above-cited words of St. Paul, who, living ' in infirmities, in 
reproaches, in necessities, in persecutions, in distresses ' for 
Christ's sake ; who, being full of ' signs and wonders, and mighty 
deeds,' who, having been ' caught up into the third heaven,' — 
yet reckoned, as a late author strongly expresses it, that 
all his virtues would be insecure, and even his salvation in 
danger, without this constant self-denial ? ' So run I,' says he, 
' not as uncertainly ; so fight I, not as one that beateth the air ' : 
by which he plainly teaches us, that he who does not thus run, 
who does not thus deny himself daily, does run uncertainly, 
and fight eth to as little purpose as he that ' beateth the air.' 

9. To as little purpose does he talk of ' fighting the fight of 
faith,' as vainly hope to attain the crown of incorruption (as 
we may, lastly, infer from the preceding observations), whose 
heart is not circumcised by love. Love, cutting off both the 
lust of the flesh, the lust of the eye, and the pride of life — 
engaging the whole man, body, soul, and spirit, in the ardent 
pursuit of that one object — is so essential to a child of God, 
that without it, whosoever liveth is counted dead before Him. 
' Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, and 
have not love, I am as sounding brass, or a tinkling cymbal. 
Though I have the gift of prophecy, and understand all 
mysteries, and all knowledge , and though I have all faith, so 

8. This whole paragraph is taken 
almost verbally from Law's Chris- 
tian Perfection, vii. p. 246 (edition 
of 1726). ' A late author ' only 
means an author who has lately 
published his work ; Law was, of 
course, still alive. 

9. Wesley anticipates most modern 
translators in preferring ' love ' to 
' charity ' in 1 Cor. xiii. He defends 
this translation in Sermon XCI, On 
Charity, I. I, on the ground that 
' Thousands are misled thereby ' 

(i.e. by the translation ' charity ') 
' and imagine that the charity treated 
of in this chapter refers chiefly, if 
not wholly, to outward actions, and 
to mean little more than almsgiving.' 
But he is wrong in saying that the 
rendering ' charity ' is not found till 
1649. It was Wyclif's translation, 
and reappears in the Rheims New 
Testament (1582) and in the A.V. 
(1611). Tindal, Cranmer, Coverdale, 
and the Geneva Bible have ' love ' ; 
and are followed by the R. V. 

TKe Circumcision of the Heart 


as to remove mountains, and have not love, I am nothing.' 
Nay, ' though I give all my goods to feed the poor, and my 
body to be burned, and have not love, it profiteth me nothing.' 
10. Here, then, is the sum of the perfect law ;_this is the 
true circumcision of the heart. Let the spirit return to God' 
that gave it, with the whole train of its affections. ' Unto the 
place from whence all the rivers came,' thither let them flow 
again. Other sacrifices from us He would not , but the living 
sacrifice of the heart He hath chosen. Let it be continually 
offered up to God through Christ, in flames of holy love. And 
let no creature be suffered to share with Him for He is a 
jealous God. His throne will He not divide with another : He 
will reign without a rival. Be no design, no desire admitted 
there, but what has Him for its ultimate object. This is the 
way wherein those children of God once walked, who, being 
dead, still speak to us ' Desire not to live but to praise His 
name let all your thoughts, words, and works tend to His 
glory. Set your heart firm on Him, and on other things only 
as they are in and from Him. Let your soul be filled with so 
entire a love of Him that you may love nothing but for His 
sake.' ' Have a pure intention of heart, a steadfast regard to 
His glory in all your actions.' ' Fix your eye upon the blessed 
hope of your calling, and make all the things of the world 
minister unto it.' For then, and not till then, is that ' mind 
in us which was also in Christ Jesus ' ; when, in every motion 
of our heart, in every word of our tongue, in every work of our 
hands, we ' pursue nothing but in relation to Him, and in 
subordination to His pleasure ' , when we, too, neither think, 
nor speak, nor act, to fulfil our ' own will, but the will of Him 
that sent us ' ; when, whether we ' eat, or drink, or whatever 
we do, we do all to the glory of God.' 

10. ' Those children of God,' i.e. the 
Mystic writers, many of whom Wesley 
had studied. Leger, in La Jeunesse 
de Wesley, p. 184, gives a list of those 
who were ' his favourite Masters ' : 
Clement of Alexandria, Chrysostom, 
Macarius, Taylor, John Smith, Cud- 
worth, Worthington, Henry More, 

Richard Lucas, John Norris, Herbert, 
Scougal, A. H. Francke, Boehm, Cas- 
taniza, Francis de Sales, De Renty, 
Retz, D'Olier, and Vincent de Paul ; 
he curiously omits Thomas a Kempis. 
I have not identified the several 
quotations, but in substance they can 
be found in almost all these authors. 


Wesley gave a series of expositions of the earlier chapters of St. John's 
Gospel to the London societies in March and April 1741, this par- 
ticular passage being entered as the subject for Friday, April 3. It 
is entered as the text of a sermon on January 2, 1743, when he preached 
from it at Epworth at 5 a.m. It was repeated at Evesham in the 
evening of January 12. It appears in the sermon list about seven 
times from 1750 to 1757. His favourite text on the New Birth was 
the previous verse (Sermon No. XXXIX, q.v.). 

The text is unfortunately chosen for this sermon. The context 
is entirely disregarded and the passage taken merely as a motto. 
The ' so ' obviously refers to the previous clause of the verse ; and 
the meaning is that the processes of the new birth are as mysterious 
and inexplicable as the blowing of the wind. The treatment of the 
subject is analogous to that of the last sermon — The Circumcision of 
the Heart — faith, hope, and love being the marks of the new birth ; 
and the section on Love owes a good deal to chap, xx of Law's Serious 
Call. It is related to the following sermon much as No. XI (The 
Witness of our own Spirit) is related to No. XLVI (Sin in Believers). 
The first sets out the ideal of the Christian life ; the second makes the 
qualifications which practical experience shows to be necessary. 

The teaching of the first paragraph on Baptismal Regeneration 
requires a fuller consideration than a footnote would permit. The 
Article (XXVII), Of Baptism, is not explicit. It states that baptism 
is not only a sign of profession, but also a sign of regeneration or new 
birth ; and that thereby ' the promises of the forgiveness of sin 
and of our adoption to be the sons of God by the Holy Ghost are 
visibly signed and sealed ' ; but it does not definitely say that the 
baptized infant is regenerated. The Office for Baptism is, however, 
much more definite ; prayer is offered, ' Give Thy Holy Spirit to this 
infant, that he may be born again, and be made an heir of everlasting 
salvation ' ; and after the administration of the sacrament, the priest 
shall say, ' Seeing that this child is regenerate and grafted into the 
body of Christ's Church, let us give thanks to Almighty God ' ; and 
again, ' We yield Thee most hearty thanks, most merciful Father, 


The Marks of the New Birth 281 

that it hath pleased Thee to regenerate this infant with Thy Holy 
Spirit,' &c. Wesley was trained up in and accepted this view. In 
Sermon XXXIX, iv. 2, he says : ' It is certain our Church supposes 
that all who are baptized in their infancy are at the same time born 
again ; and it is allowed that the whole Office for the Baptism of 
Infants proceeds upon this supposition. Nor is it an objection of 
any weight against this, that we cannot comprehend how this work 
can be wrought in infants. For neither can we comprehend how it 
is wrought in a person of riper years.' But he significantly adds, 
' Whatever be the case with infants ' (which implies some hesitation 
on his part) ' it is sure all of riper years who are baptized are not at 
the same time born again.' So in Sermon XV, i. 1 : ' From all the 
passages of holy writ wherein this expression " the being born of 
God " occurs, we may learn that it implies not barely the being bap- 
tized, or any outward change whatever ; but a vast inward change? 
In" Journal, May 24, 1738, he says '. ' I believe till I was about ten 
years old, I had not sinned away that " washing of the Holy Ghost " 
which was given me in baptism.' In the Treatise on Baptism, pub- 
lished in 1756, he says ' that in baptism infants are (1) freed from the 
guilt of original sin, so that, if they die before committing actual sin, 
they will be saved ; (2) admitted into the new covenant relation 
between God and His people, as by circumcision the children of Jews 
were admitted into the old covenant ; (3) admitted into the Church ; 
(4) made the children of God by adoption and grace. ' Herein,' he 
says, ' a principle of grace is infused, which will not be wholly taken 
away, unless we quench the Holy Spirit of God by long-continued 
wickedness.' However, in the Sunday Service of the Methodists (1784 
and 1786), the Office for Baptism was much abridged ; the three 
passages quoted above were omitted ; the word ' regenerated ' is not 
used, except in the quotation from John iii. 5 in the introductory 
exhortation ; the minister at the end gives thanks ' that this child 
is admitted into the body of Christ's Church,' and that it hath pleased 
God ' to receive this infant for Thy own child by adoption, and to 
admit him into Thy holy Church.' In the editions of 1857 an d later, 
the thanksgivings at the end were omitted altogether. When the 
Book of Offices was revised in 1882, there was a strenuous debate in 
the Conference over the alterations proposed in the Office for Bap- 
tism. The reference to John iii. 5 was left out by the Committee, 
as well as all phrases that might seem to suggest that the infant was 
born again in baptism ; a prayer was added for the parents ; and the 
short prayers, placed previously just before the act of baptism, were 
transferred to the end of the service, to avoid the supposition that 
they were meant to be answered at the time the child was baptized. 
I was present at the debate, and well remember how it was urged by 
some of the brethren that we were bound to accept the doctrine of 

282 Sermon XIV 

baptismal regeneration because Mr. Wesley affirmed it in the Standard 
Sermons. Dr. Rigg replied that we were not bound to accept every 
doctrine that might be incidentally mentioned in the Standards, but 
only the general scheme of doctrine therein contained. The Confer- 
ence supported this view, and the revised form was agreed to, with 
the proviso that liberty should be left to any minister to use the older 
form if he so desired {Minutes, 1882, p. 223). This, however, did not 
prevent two well-known ministers from resigning their connexion 
with the Conference and entering the Church of England. The Metho- 
dist Church has thus definitely repudiated the view that the infant 
is born again in baptism, though liberty of judgement is left to each 
minister ; and it may fairly be argued that Wesley's revision of the 
service in 1784 proves that in his later life he altered his earlier opinion. 
Watson in his Institutes {Works, xii. 266) says: 'To the infant child it 
is a visible reception into the same covenant and church — a pledge of 
acceptance through Christ — the bestowment of a title to all the grace 
of the covenant as circumstances may require, and as the mind of the 
child may be capable, or made capable, of receiving it. It secures, 

too, the gift of the Holy Spirit in those secret spiritual influences by 
which the actual regeneration of those children who die in infancy 
is effected ; and which are a seed of life in those who are spared.' Dr. 
W. B. Pope maintains that baptism is not a mere sign or badge of 
Christian profession, nor only an impressive emblem of the washing 
away of sin ; it does convey its accompanying grace to the recipient. 
I remember being present during the Conference of 1885 at Trinity 
Chapel, Southport, when Dr. Pope baptized a child ; and as he handed 
it back to its parents, he said, ' Doubt not but your child has received 
in this holy sacrament all the grace of which he is now capable.' Our 
danger in Methodism has not been in the direction of over-estimating 
the value of this sacrament, but rather in regarding it as merely 
the recognition of the child's formal reception into the Church. Our 
perfunctoriness in the administration of it, and our subsequent failure 
to look after our baptized children and give them due pastoral atten- 
tion, has been a grave cause of loss and harm to ourselves, and has 
given no little advantage to those who have sought to cast discredit 
on infant baptism and to urge our young people to be rebaptized by 
immersion. It is a question whether we have not made a mistake 
in dropping the rite of Confirmation without substituting for it some 
solemn service at which our baptized children could consciously take 
upon themselves the vows made for them at their baptism. 

This sermon was first published in Vol. II of the Sermons in 1748. 

The Marks of the New Birth 


So is every one that is born of the Spirit. — John iii. 8. 

i. How is every one that is ' born of the Spirit ' — that is, 
born again — born of God ? What is meant by the being 
born again, the being born of God, or being born of the Spirit ? 
What is implied in the being a son or a child of God, or having 
the Spirit of adoption ? That these privileges, by the free 
mercy of God, are ordinarily annexed to baptism (which is 
thence termed by our Lord in a preceding verse, the being 
' born of water and of the Spirit ') we know ; but we would 
know what these privileges are : what is the new birth ? 

2. Perhaps it is not needful to give a definition of this, 
seeing the Scripture gives none. But as the question is of the 
deepest concern to every child of man ; since, ' except a man 
be born again,' born of the Spirit, ' he cannot see the kingdom 
of God ' , I propose to lay down the marks of it in the plainest 
manner, just as I find them laid down in Scripture. 

I. 1. The first of these, and the foundation of all the rest, 
is faith. So St. Paul, ' Ye are all the children of God by faith 
in Christ Jesus ' (Gal. iii. 26). So St. John, ' To them gave 
He power ' (igovaiav, right or privilege, it may rather be 
translated) ' to become the sons of God, even to them that 
believe on His name ; which were born,' when they believed, 

Par. 1. Some commentators have 
questioned whether John iii. 5 has 
any reference to Christian baptism, 
as it was not instituted at the time 
of this conversation w.jth Nicodemus ; 
but, whilst he could only have under- 
stood the words in the general sense 
of a baptism of initiation into the 
Kingdom, analogous to John's bap- 
tism, I cannot doubt that in our 
Lord's mind there was a clear pre- 
vision of the baptism which He was 
to institute ; just as in John vi. 
there is a prevision of the Sacrament 
of the Lord's Supper. 

I. 1. Wesley does not seem to 
have grasped clearly the distinction 

between the views of St. Paul and 
St. John on Sonship. St. Paul re- 
gards it as adoption, St. John as 
regeneration ; J;hough both make; 
"faith the condition of receiving the 
blessing. In this passage (Gal. iii. 
26) St. Paul also connects it with 
baptism, as is seen from the follow- 
ing verse, and with the new life in 
fellowship with Christ. 

The interpretation of John i. 12, 13 
is vitiated by this confusion. The 
passage runs, ' As many as received 
Him, to them gave He legitimate 
right to become children of God, 
even to those who believe in His 
name ; who were begotten, not of 


Sermon XIV 

' not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh,' not by natural 
^generation, ' nor of the will of man/ like those children adopted 
my men, in whom no inward change is thereby wrought, ' but 
of God ' (John i. 12, 13). And again, in his General Epistle, 
' Whosoever believeth that Jesus is the Christ is born of God ' 
(1 John v. 1). 

2. But it is not a_barelyjiotional or speculative f aith that, 
is here spoken of by the Apostles. It is not a bare assent to 
this proposition, ' Jesus is the Christ ' , nor indeed to all the 
propositions contained in our creed, or in the Old and New 
Testament. It is not merely an assent to any or all these 
credible things, as credible. To say this, were to say (which 
who could hear ?) that the devils were born of God ; for they 
have this faith. They, trembling, believe, both that Jesus is 
the Christ, and that all Scripture, having been given by in- 
spiration of God, is true as God is true. It is not only an 
assent to divine truth, upon the testimony of God, or upon the 
evidence of miracles ; for they also heard the words of His 
mouth, and knew Him to be a faithful and true witness. They 
could not but receive the testimony He gave, both of Himself, 
and of the Father which sent Him. They saw likewise the 
mighty works which He did, and thence believed that He 

' came forth from God.' Yet, notwithstanding this faith, they 
are still ' reserved in chains of darkness unto the judgement 
of the great day.' 

3. For all this is no more than a dead faith. The true, 
living, Christian faith, which whosoever hath is born of God, is 
not only assent, an act of the understanding , but a disposition, 
which God hath wrought in his heart , ' a sure trust and con- 

blood, nor of the will of the flesh, 
nor of the will of man, but of God.' 
There is no question here of adop- 
tion, but of a divine begetting ; 
and this is not the result of mere 
physical instinct, nor of the designed 
gratification of it, nor even of the 
purposed begetting of a child through 
its operation, but of God. 

The third passage quoted (1 John 
v. 1) is not really relevant. Belief 

that Jesus is the Messiah is here 
spoken of rather as the test and 
proof than the cause of the new birth. 
The apostle is thinking of those who 
claimed to be Christians whilst deny- 
ing that Jesus was the Messiah ; see 
1 John ii. 18-23. 

3. This whole paragraph is closely 
dependent on the Homily on Salva- 
tion ; the phrase ' a dead faith ' 
occurs there frequently ; ' a sure 

The Marks of the New Birth 


fidence in God, that, through the merits of Christ, his sins are 
forgiven, and he reconciled to the favour of God.' This im- 
plies, that a man first renounce himself , that, in order to be 
' found in Christ,' to be accepted through Him, he totally 
rejects all ' confidence in the flesh ' ; that, ' having nothing to 
pay,' having no trust in his own works or righteousness of 
any kind, he comes to God as a lost, miserable, self-destroyed, 
self-condemned, undone, helpless sinner ; as one whose mouth 
is utterly stopped, and who is altogether ' guilty before God.' 
Such a sense of sin (commonly called ' despair ' by those who 
speak evil of the things they know not), together with a 
full conviction, such as no words can express, that of Christ 
only cometh our salvation, and an earnest desire of that sal- 
vation, must precede a living faith, a trust in Him, who ' for 
us paid our ransom by His death, and [for us] fulfilled the law 
in His life.' This faith then, whereby we are born of God, 
is ' not only a belief of all the articles of our faith, but also 
a true confidence of the mercy of God through our Lord 
Jesus Christ.' 

4. An immediate and constant fruit of this faith whereby 
we are born of God, a fruit which can in no wise be separated 
from it, no, not for an hour, is power over sin, — power over 
outward sin of every kind , over every evil word and work ; 
for wheresoever the blood of Christ is thus applied, it ' purgeth 
the conscience from dead works,' — and over inward sin , for 
it purifieth the heart from every unholy desire and temper. 
This fruit of faith St. Paul has largely described, in the sixth 
chapter of his Epistle to the Romans. ' How shall we,' saith 
he, ' who ' by faith ' are dead to sin, live any longer therein ? ' 

trust,' &c, is quoted from the third 
part of the Homily ; ' who for us 
paid our ransom,' &c, is at the end 
of Part I of the Homily ; ' not only 
a belief,' &c, is substantially from 
Part III of the Homily. 

4. The uncompromising teaching 
of this and the following paragraphs 
on the absolute freedom from sin of 
the regenerate believer is corrected 
in the following sermon, as well as 

in that on Sin in Believers. It is 
admitted (Sermon XLVI, hi. 1) 
that ' even in the regenerate there 
are two principles, contrary the one 
to the other,' and (Sermon XLVI, 
iii. 7) that believers ' are daily sen- 
sible of sin remaining in their heart ' ; 
so that it is not true that ' the blood 
of Christ purifieth the heart from 
every unholy desire and temper,' 
as here stated. Moreover, in the 

286 Sermon XIV 

' Our old man is crucified with Christ, that the body of sin 
might be destroyed, that henceforth we should not serve sin.' 
' Likewise, reckon ye yourselves to be dead unto sin, but 
alive unto God through Jesus Christ our Lord. Let not sin 
therefore reign ' even ' in your mortal body,' ' but yield your- 
selves unto God, as those that are alive from the dead.' ' For 
sin shall not have dominion over you. God be thanked, 

that ye were the servants of sin , .but being made free,' — 
the plain meaning is, God be thanked, that though ye were, in 
time past, the servants of sin, yet now, ' being free from sin, 
ye are become the servants of righteousness.' 

5. The same invaluable privilege of the sons of God is as 
strongly asserted by St. John ; particularly with regard to the 
former branch of it, namely, power over outward sin. After 
he had been crying out, as one astonished at the depth of the 
riches of the goodness of God, ' Behold, what manner of love 
the Father hath bestowed upon us, that we should be called 
the sons of God ! Beloved, now are we the sons of God ; 
and it doth not yet appear what we shall be : but we know 
that, when He shall appear, we shall be like Him , for we shall 
see Him as He is ' (1 John iii. 1, &c), — he soon adds, ' Who- 
soever is born of God doth not commit sin ; for His seed 
remaineth in him and he cannot sin, because he is born of 
God ' (verse 9) . But some men will say, ' True : whosoever 

next sermon it is stated and proved preacher's own head ; for it is prac- 

from scriptural examples that ' those tically what he teaches in the next 

whom we cannot deny to have been sermon. Of course St. John does 

truly born of God nevertheless, not not say ' habitually,' for he is de- 

only could, but did, commit sin, scribing an ideal, and no one should 

even gross, outward sin.' It would desire to lower it. But it is all that 

have saved Wesley much trouble if one can truthfully say of the average 

he had recognized that we have in Christian, that he does not sin habit- 

the New Testament an ideal set ually ; and that is no small thing, 

before us, to which we can more and A man's character is to be judged 

more approximate, until we are per- by his habitual, not his occasional, 

fected in love, but which is not at actions. To take a very familiar 

once attained when we are born illustration : an ideal bicyclist never 

again. has a fall ; the actual bicyclist 

5. This diatribe on the interpreta- habitually stays on his machine ; but 

tion of 1 John iii. 9 as ' doth not he does not cease to be a bicyclist 

commit sin habitually ' recoils on the because occasionally through care- 

The Marks of the New Birth 


is born of God doth not commit sin habitually.' Habitually ! 
Whence is that ? I read it not. It is not written in the Book. 
God plainly saith, ' He doth not commit sin ' ; and thou addest, 
habitually ! Who art thou that mendest the oracles of God ? 
— that ' addest to the words of this book ' ? Beware, I 
beseech thee, lest God ' add to thee all the plagues that are 
written therein ' ! especially when the comment thou addest is 
such as quite swallows up the text so that by this fxedoSela 
ifkavris, this artful method of deceiving, the precious promise 
is utterly lost ; by this tcvfieia av0pco7rcov } this tricking and 
shuffling of men, the Word of God is made of none effect. O 
beware, thou that thus takest from the words of this book, 
that, taking away the whole meaning and spirit from them, 
leavest only what may indeed be termed a dead letter, lest 
God take away thy part out of the book of life ! 

6. Suffer we the Apostle to interpret his own words, by the 
whole tenor of his discourse. In the fifth verse of this chapter, 
he had said, ' Ye know that He,' Christ, ' was manifested 
to take away our sins ; and in Him is no sin.' What is the 
inference he draws from this ? ' Whosoever abideth in Him 
sinneth not : whosoever sinneth hath not seen Him, neither 
known Him ' (1 John iii. 6). To his enforcement of this 
important doctrine, he premises an highly necessary caution : 
' Little children, let no man deceive you ' (verse 7) , for many 
will endeavour so to do , to persuade you that you may be 

lessness or over-confidence he takes 
a tumble. Wesley did not realize 
the tremendous importance of habit 
in the formation of character, or he 
would not have spoken so scornfully 
of it here. Growth in holiness is 
really the gradual development of 
the habit of holiness until it becomes 
automatic. The student should read 
chapter ix in Part II of William 
James's Principles of Psychology ; 
and he will no longer think that it 
is a trifling thing that a man should 
not sin habitually. 

There is a sort of poetical justice 
in the fact that the passage (Eph. iv. 

14) from which Wesley quotes these 
Greek phrases is an exhortation to 
babes in Christ to form Christian 
habits, to grow up into Christ, who 
is the head, in all things. The baby's 
hand moves at first spasmodically, 
and is but slightly under the control 
of the brain ; but it gradually ' grows 
up into the head,' establishes ner- 
vous connexions with the brain, 
until it is habitually controlled from 
that centre, and until that control 
becomes automatic ; and it can per- 
form, almost without conscious effort, 
the complicated fingerings of a Liszt 
rhapsody or a Bach fugue. 

288 Sermon XIV 

unrighteous, that you may commit sin, and yet be children of 
God : ' He that doeth righteousness is righteous, even as He 
is righteous. He that committeth sin is of the devil , for the 
devil sinneth from the beginning.' Then follows, ' Whosoever 
is born of God doth not commit sin ; for His seed remaineth 
in him : and he cannot sin, because he is born of God.' ' In 
this,' adds the Apostle, ' the children of God are manifest, and 
the children of the devil.' By this plain mark (the committing 
or not committing sin) are they distinguished from each other. 
To the same effect are those words in his fifth chapter : ' We 
know that whosoever is born of God sinneth not ; but he that 
is begotten of God keepeth himself, and that wicked one 
toucheth him not ' (verse 18). 

7. Another fruit of this living faith is peace. For, ' being 
justified by faith,' having all our sins blotted out, ' we have 
peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ ' (Rom. v. 1). 
This indeed our Lord Himself, the night before His death, 
solemnly bequeathed to all His followers : ' Peace,' saith He, 
' I leave with you ' (you who ' believe in God,' and ' believe 
also in Me ') , ' My peace I give unto you : not as the world 
giveth, give I unto you. Let not your heart be troubled, 
neither let it be afraid ' (John xiv. 27). And again : ' These 
things have I spoken unto you, that in Me ye might have peace ' 
(John xvi. 33). This is that ' peace of God which passeth 
all understanding,' that serenity of soul which it hath not 
entered into the heart of a natural man to conceive, and which 
it is not possible for even the spiritual man to utter. And it 
is a peace which all the powers of earth and hell are unable to 
take from him. Waves and storms beat upon it, but they 
shake it not , for it is founded upon a rock. It keepeth the 

7. ' Whatever is, is best ' : an He quotes from his poems ten times 

obvious reminiscence of the last line in his Journal ; and this particular 

of the first part of Pope's Essay on passage is quoted on March 14, 1789: 

Man, published in 1732. The line ' In the evening I preached in 

actually runs : Temple Church ; perhaps for the 

r> * *v, • 1 . «n. * • • _, u. . last time. Well, ■ ' whatever is, is 

One truth is clear, Whatever is, is right. , . , . . 

best." ' Charles used it in two of 

John Wesley read Pope's Epistles his hymns : in the first verse of 

in Savannah on March 14, 1737. Hymn CCIX in Hymns and Sacred 

The Marks of the New Birth 289 

hearts and minds of the children of God, at all times and in 
all places. Whether they are in ease or in pain, in sickness or 
health, in abundance or want, they are happy in God. In 
every state they have learned to be content, yea, to give thanks 
unto God through Christ Jesus , being well assured, that 
' whatsoever is, is best,' because it is His will concerning them : 
so that in all the vicissitudes of life their heart ' standeth 
fast, believing in the Lord.' 

II. 1. A second scriptural mark of those who are born of 
God, is hope. Thus St. Peter, speaking to all the children of 
God who were then scattered abroad, saith, ' Blessed be the 
God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, which according to 
His abundant mercy, hath begotten us again unto a lively 
hope ' (1 Pet. i. 3). 'E\7rl8a %eocrav, a lively or living hope, 
saith the Apostle ; because there is also a dead hope, as well as a 
dead faith , a hope which is not from God, but from the enemy 
of God and man ; — as evidently appears by its fruits ; for, as 
it is the offspring of pride, so it is the parent of every evil word 
and work , whereas, every man that hath in him this living 
hope, is ' holy as He that calleth him is holy ' , every man 
that can truly say to his brethren in Christ, ' Beloved, now 
are we the sons of God, and we shall see Him as He is,' ' puri- 
fieth himself, even as He is pure.' 

2. This hope [, — termed in the Epistle to the Hebrews (x. 22), 
7r\r)po<fcopLa iri(TTea)<i, and elsewhere 7r\rjpocf)opLav e\7riSo? (vi. Il) ; 
in our translation ' the full assurance of faith, and the full 
assurance of hope,' expressions the best which our language 
could afford, although far weaker than those in the original,- 
as described in Scripture,] implies, first, the testimony of 
our own spirit, or conscience, that we walk ' in simplicity and 
godly sincerity ' ; secondly [and chiefly] the testimony of the 

Poems, 1749 (No. 533 in the 1876 boy, John James, who died of small- 
Hymn-Book) : pox in January 1754, first published 
Lord, we Thy will obey, in Funeral Hymns, second series, 
And in Thy pleasure rest, 1 759, and placed in the Revised 

We, only we, can say, Hymn-Book of 1 876 as No. 9 1 4. The 

Whatever is, is best, — , , , , . 

fourth verse ends : 

and in a hymn written at Bristol Safe in Thy decree we rest, 

during the illness of his only little Sure whatever is, is best. 

I— 19 

290 Sermon XIV 

Spirit of God, ' bearing witness with,' or to, ' our spirit, that 
we are the children of God,' ' and if children, then heirs, heirs 
of God, and joint-heirs with Christ.' 

3. Let us well observe what is here taught us by God Him- 
self, touching this glorious privilege of His children. Who is 
it that is here said to bear witness ? Not our spirit only, but 

another ; even the Spirit of God : He it is who ' beareth 

witness with our spirit.' What is it He beareth witness of ? 
' That we are the children of God ; and if children, then heirs , 
heirs of God, and joint-heirs with Christ ' (Rom. viii. 16, 17) , 
' if so be that we suffer with Him,' if we deny ourselves, if we 
take up our cross daily, if we cheerfully endure persecution or 
reproach for His sake, ' that we may also be glorified together.' 
And in whom doth the Spirit of God bear this witness ? In 
all who are the children of God. By this very argument does 
the Apostle prove, in the preceding verses, that they are so : 
' As many,' saith he, ' as are led by the Spirit of God, they are 
the sons of God.' ' For ye have not received the spirit of 
bondage again to fear ; but ye have received the Spirit of 
adoption, whereby we cry, Abba, Father ! ' It follows, ' the 
Spirit itself beareth witness with our spirit, that we are the 
children of God ' (Rom. viii. 14-16). 

4. The variation of the phrase in the fifteenth verse is 
worthy our observation ' Ye have received the Spirit of 
adoption, whereby we cry. Abba, Father ! ' Ye, as many as 
are the sons of God, have, in virtue of your sonship, received 
that self-same Spirit of adoption, whereby we cry, Abba, Father. 
We, the apostles, prophets, teachers (for so the word may not 
improperly be understood), we, through whom you have 
believed, the ' ministers of Christ, and stewards of the mysteries 
of God.' As we and you have one Lord, so we have one Spirit : 
as we have one iaiDi^lo^e have one hope also. We and" you"" 

are sealed with one ' Spirit of promise,' the earnest of your 

II. 4. It is doubtful whether the pronouns would have been ex- 
change of person will carry this in- pressed — which they are not. The 
terpretation ; if the distinction be- We means rather the whole body of 
tween the Ye and the We had been Christian people, not merely the 
intended to be so marked, surely the officials of the Church. 

The Marks of the New Birth 291 

and of our inheritance : the same Spirit bearing witness with 
your and with our spirit, ' that we are the children of God.' 

5. And thus is the Scripture fulfilled, ' Blessed are they 
that mourn , for they shall be comforted.' For it is easy to 
believe, that though sorrow may precede this witness of God's 
Spirit with our spirit (indeed must, in some degree, while we 
groan under fear, and a sense of the wrath of God abiding on 
us) ; yet, as soon as any man feeleth it in himself, his ' sorrow 
is turned into joy.' Whatsoever his pain may have been 
before ; yet, as soon as that ' hour is come, he remembereth 
the anguish no more, for joy ' that he is born of God. It 
may be, many of you have now sorrow, because you are 'aliens 
from the commonwealth of Israel ' ; because you are conscious 
to yourselves that you have not this Spirit ; that you are 
' without hope and without God in the world.' But when 
the Comforter is come, ' then your heart shall rejoice ' : yea, 
' your joy shall be full,' and ' that joy no man taketh from 
you ' (John xvi. 22). ' We joy in God,' will ye say, ' through 
our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom we have now received the 
atonement ' , 'by whom we have access into this grace,' this 
state of grace, of favour, or reconciliation with God, ' wherein 
we stand, and rejoice in hope of the glory of God ' (Rom. v. 2). 
' Ye,' saith St. Peter, whom God hath ' begotten again unto 
a lively hope, are kept by the power of God unto salvation : 
wherein ye greatly rejoice, though now for a season, if need be, 
ye are in heaviness through manifold temptations ; that the 
trial of your faith may be found unto praise, and honour, and 
glory at the appearing of Jesus Christ , in whom, though now 
ye see Him not, ye rejoice with joy unspeakable and full of 
glory ' (1 Pet. i. 5, &c). Unspeakable indeed ! It is not for 
the tongue of man to describe this joy in the Holy Ghost. It 
is ' the hidden manna, which no man knoweth, save he that 
receive th it.' But this we know, it not only remains, but 
overflows, in the depth of affliction. ' Are the consolations 
of God small ' with His children, when all earthly comforts fail ? 
Not so. But when sufferings most abound, the consolation 
of His Spirit doth much more abound ; insomuch that the sons 
of God ' laugh at destruction when it cometh ' ; at want, pain, 

292 Sermon XIV 

hell, and the grave , as knowing Him who ' hath the keys of 
death and hell,' and will shortly ' cast them into the bottomless 
pit ' ; as hearing even now the great voice out of heaven, 
saying, f Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and He 
will dwell with them, and they shall be His people, and God 
Himself shall be with them, and be their God. And God shall 
wipe away all tears from their eyes , and there shall be no more 
death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any 
more pain , for the former things are passed away ' (Rev. xxi. 
3, 4)- 

III. i. A third scriptural mark of those who are born of 
God, and the greatest of all, is love ; even ' the love of God 
shed abroad in their hearts by the Holy Ghost which is given 
unto them ' (Rom. v. 5). ' Because they are sons, God hath 
sent forth the Spirit of His Son into their hearts, crying, Abba, 
Father ! ' (Gal. iv. 6). By this Spirit, continually looking up 
to God as their reconciled and loving Father, they cry to Him 
for their daily bread, for all things needful, whether for their 
souls or bodies. They continually pour out their hearts before 
Him, knowing 'they have the petitions which they ask of 
Him ' (1 John v. 15). Their delight is in Him. He is the joy 
of their heart , their ' shield,' and their ' exceeding great 
reward.' The desire of their soul is toward Him , it is their 
' meat and drink to do His will ' ; ancjl they are ' satisfied as 
with marrow and fatness, while their mouth praiseth Him with 
joyful lips ' (Ps. lxiii. 5). 

2. And, in this sense also, ' every one who loveth Him that 
begat, loveth Him that is begotten of Him' (1 John v. 1). 
His spirit rejoiceth in God his Saviour. He ' loveth the Lord 
Jesus Christ in sincerity.' He is so ' joined unto the Lord,' 
as to be one spirit. His soul hangeth upon Him, and chooseth 
Him as altogether lovely, ' the chief est among ten thousand.' 
He knoweth, he feeleth what that means, 'My beloved is 
mine, and I am His ' (Cant. ii. 16). ' Thou art fairer than the 
children of men , full of grace are Thy lips, because God hath 
anointed Thee for ever ! ' (Ps. xlv. 2). 

3. The necessary fruit of this love of God is the love of our 

The Marks of the New Birth 293 

neighbour ; of every soul which God hath made ; not excepting 
our enemies ; not excepting those who are now ' despitefully 
using and persecuting us ' — a love whereby we love every man 
as ourselves , as we love our own souls. Nay, our Lord has 
expressed it still more strongly, teaching us to ' love one another, 
even as He hath loved us.' Accordingly, the commandment 
written in the hearts of all those that love God is no other than 
this, ' As I have loved you, so love ye one another.' Now, 
' herein perceive we the love of God, in that He laid down 
His life for us ' (1 John iii. 16). ' We ought,' then, as the 
Apostle justly infers, ' to lay down our lives for the brethren.' 
If we feel ourselves ready to do this, then do we truly love our 
neighbour. Then ' we know that we have passed from death 
unto life, because we ' thus ' love the brethren ' (1 John iii. 14). 
' Hereby know we ' that we are born of God, that we ' dwell 
in Him, and He in us, because He hath given us of His ' loving 
' Spirit ' (iv. 13). For ' love is of God ; and every one that ' 
thus ' loveth is born of God, and knoweth God ' (iv. 7). 

4. But some may possibly ask, ' Does not the Apostle say, 
" This is the love of God, that we keep His commandments " ? ' 
(1 John v. 3). Yea, and this is the love of our neighbour also, 
in the same sense as it is the love of God. But what would 
you infer from hence ? that the keeping the outward com- 
mandments is all that is implied in loving God with all your 
heart, with all your mind, and soul, and strength, and in loving 
your neighbour as yourself ? that the love of God is not an 
affection of the soul, but merely an outward service ? and that 
the love of our neighbour is not a disposition of heart, but 
barely a course of outward works ? To mention so wild an 
interpretation of the Apostle's words, is sufficiently to confute 
it. The plain indisputable meaning of the text is, — this is 
the sign or proof of the love of God, of our keeping the first 
and great commandment, to keep all the rest of His com- 
mandments. For true love, if it be once shed abroad in our 
heart, will constrain us so to do ; since, whosoever loves God 
with all his heart, cannot but serve Him with all his strength. 

5. A second fruit, then, of the love of God (so far as it can 
be distinguished from it) is universal obedience to Him we love, 

294 Sermon XIV 

and conformity to His will , obedience to all the commands of 
God, internal and external ; obedience of the heart and of the 
life : in every temper, and in all manner of conversation. And 
one of the tempers most obviously implied herein is, the being 
' zealous of good works ' , the hungering and thirsting to do 
good, in every possible kind, unto all men , the rejoicing to 
' spend and be spent for them,' for every child of man ; not 
looking for any recompense in this world, but only in the 
resurrection of the just. 

IV i. Thus have I plainly laid down those marks of the 
new birth which I find laid down in Scripture. Thus doth 
God Himself answer that weighty question, What is it to be 
born of God ? Such, if the appeal be made to the oracles of 
God, is ' every one that is born of the Spirit.' This it is, in 
the judgement of the Spirit of God, to be a son or a child of 
God : it is, so to believe in God, through Christ, as ' not to 
commit sin,' and to enjoy at all times, and in all places, that 
' peace of God which passeth all understanding.' It is, so to 
hope in God through the Son of His love, as to have not only 
the ' testimony of a good conscience,' but also the Spirit of 
God ' bearing witness with your spirits, that ye are the children of 
God ' ; whence cannot but spring the rejoicing [evermore] in Him 
through whom ye ' have received the atonement.' It is, so to 
love God, who hath thus loved you, as you never did love any 
creature : so that ye are constrained to love all men as your- 
selves ; with a love not only ever burning in your hearts, but 
flaming out in all your actions and conversations, and making 
your whole life one ' labour of love,' one continued obedience 
to those commands, ' Be ye merciful, as God is merciful ' ; 
' Be ye holy, as I the Lord am holy ' ; ' Be ye perfect, as your 
Father which is in heaven is perfect.' 

2. Who then are ye that are thus born of God ? Ye 
' know the things which are given to you of God.' Ye well 
know that ye are the children of God, and * can assure your 
hearts before Him/ And every one of you who has observed 
these words cannot but feel, and know of a truth, whether at 
this hour (answer to God, and not to man !) you are thus a 

The Marks of the New Birth 



child of God or no. The question is not, what you was made 
in baptism (do not evade) ; but, what are you now ? Is the 
Spirit of adoption now in your heart ? To your own heart let 
the appeal be made. I ask not, whether you was born of 
water and of the Spirit ; but are you now the temple of the 
Holy Ghost which dwelleth in you ? I allow you was ' circum- 
cised with the circumcision of Christ ' (as St. Paul emphatically 
terms baptism) , but does the Spirit of Christ and of glory 
now rest upon you ? Else, ' your circumcision is become 

3. Say not then in your heart, ' I was once baptized, therefore 
I am now a child of God.' Alas, that consequence will by no 
means hold. How many are the baptized gluttons and 
drunkards, the baptized liars and common swearers, the 
baptized railers and evil-speakers, the baptized whoremongers, 
thieves, extortioners ? What think you ? Are these now the 
children of God ? Verily, I say unto you, whosoever you are, 
unto whom any one of the preceding characters belong, ' Ye 
are of your father the devil, and the works of your father ye 
do.' Unto you I call, in the name of Him whom you crucify 
afresh, and in His words to your circumcised predecessors, 
' Ye serpents, ye generation of vipers, how can ye escape the 
damnation of hell ? ' 

4. How, indeed, except ye be born again ? For ye are 
now dead in trespasses and sins. To say, then, that ye cannot 
be born again, that there is no new birth but in baptism, is to 
seal you all under damnation, to consign you to hell, without 
help, without hope. And perhaps some may think this just 

IV 2. ' You was.' When ' you ' 
was used as the singular of the pro- 
noun, meaning ' thou,' the singular 
form ' was ' followed it throughout 
the sixteenth, seventeenth, and eigh- 
teenth centuries. It gives all the 
force of a personal appeal to this 

' The circumcision of Christ ' : see 
Col. ii. 11, 12. 

3. See the fuller discussion of the 
relation of baptism to the new birth 

in Sermon XXXIX, iv. 1 and 2, 
where it is stated (1) that baptism 
is not the new birth ; and (2) that 
the new birth does not always accom- 
pany baptism ; and in section 4 the 
sinner who urges his baptism as a 
reason why he should not now seek 
regeneration is dealt with in a very 
faithful fashion, and told that by 
his sins he has already denied his 
baptism, and that, baptized or not, 
he must be born again. 

296 Sermon XIV 

and right. In their zeal for the Lord of Hosts, they may say, 
' Yea, cut off the sinners, the Amalekites ! Let these Gibeon- 
ites be utterly destroyed ! They deserve no less/ No , nor 
I, nor you. Mine and your desert, as well as theirs, is hell ! 
and it is mere mercy, free, undeserved mercy, that we are 
not now in unquenchable fire. You will say, ' But we are 
washed ' ; we were born again ' of water and of the Spirit.' 
So were they : this, therefore, hinders not at all, but that ye 
may now be even as they. Know ye not, that ' what is highly 
esteemed of men is an abomination in the sight of God ' ? 
Come forth, ye ' saints of the world/ ye that are honoured 
of men, and see who will cast the first stone at them, at these 
wretches not fit to live upon the earth, these common harlots, 
adulterers, murderers. Only learn ye first what that meaneth, 
' He that hateth his brother is a murderer ' (1 John iii. 15). 
' He that looketh on a woman to lust after her hath committed 
adultery with her already in his heart ' (Matt. v. 28). ' Ye 
adulterers and adulteresses, know ye not that the friendship 
of the world is enmity with God ? ' (Jas. iv. 4). 

5. ' Verily, verily, I say unto you, ye ' also ' must be born 
again/ ' Except ye ' also ' be born again, ye cannot see the 
kingdom of God.' Lean no more on the staff of that broken 
reed, that ye were born again in baptism. Who denies that 
ye were then made children of God, and heirs of the kingdom 
of heaven ? But, notwithstanding this, ye are now children 
of the devil. Therefore, ye must be born again. And let not 
Satan put it into your heart to cavil at a word, when the thing 
is clear. Ye have heard what are the marks of the children 
of God all ye who have them not on your souls, baptized or 
unbaptized, must needs receive them, or without doubt ye will 
perish everlastingly. And if ye have been baptized, your only 
hope is this, — that those who were made the children of God 
by baptism, but are now the children of the devil, may yet 
again receive ' power to become the sons of God ' , that they 

4. In Jas. iv. 4 the best attested been faithless to their relation to 

reading is, ' Ye adulteresses, know God, which is often expressed under 

ye not,' &c., the feminine being used the figure of marriage in the Old 

to mean adulterous souls who have Testament. 

The Marks of the New Birth 297 

may receive again what they have lost, even the ' Spirit of 
adoption, crying in their hearts, Abba, Father ! ' 

Amen, Lord Jesus ! May every one who prepareth his 
heart yet again to seek Thy face receive again that Spirit of 
adoption, and cry out, ' Abba, Father ! ' Let him now again 
have power so to believe in Thy name as to become a child of 
God ; as to know and feel he hath ' redemption in Thy blood, 
even the forgiveness of sins ' ; and that he ' cannot commit 
sin, because he is born of God.' Let him be now ' begotten 
again unto a living hope/ so as to ' purify himself as Thou art 
pure ' ; and ' because he is a son,' let the Spirit of love and 
of glory rest upon him, cleansing him ' from all filthiness of 
flesh and spirit/ and teaching him to ' perfect holiness in the 
fear of God ' ! 



This fine practical sermon is evidently intended to modify the un- 
compromising teaching of the previous discourse on the sinlessness 
of believers. It bears many marks of being a later composition than 
that: for example, the clear distinction drawn between justification 
and regeneration in pars, i and 2 ; the more definite statement that 
being born again is not ' barely the being baptized ' ; and the frank 
admission that sin is possible in those ' whom we cannot deny to have 
been truly born of God.' Wesley preached from this text at Lambeth 
on September 23, 1739, ' and showed (to the amazement, it seemed, 
of many who were present) how " he that is born of God doth not 
commit sin," ' and at Kendalshire, near Bristol, on January 17 = 
1740 ; but I doubt if it was this sermon. It does not occur in the 
sermon list ; though the previous verse is mentioned as a text in 
1752. On the whole, the evidence is that it was written in the first 
instance for publication, and as a supplement to Sermon XIV ; though 
the substance of it may well have been given in the series of studies in 
this epistle recorded in August 1 740 at the Foundery, and in November 
1740 at Bristol. 

Whosoever is born of God doth not commit sin. — 1 John iii. 9. 

i. It has been frequently supposed, that the being born of 
God was all one with the being justified ; that the new birth 
and justification were only different expressions, denoting the 
same thing it being certain, on the one hand, that whoever 
is justified is also born of God , and, on the other, that whoever 
is born of God is also justified , yea, that both these gifts of 
God are given to every believer in one and the same moment. 

Par. 1. ' In one point of time,' try were from the nature of the case 
&c. The great majority of the cases instantaneous. Men and women 
of conversion under Wesley's minis- who had been living in open sin or 


The Great Privilege of those that are Born of God 299 

In one point of time his sins are blotted out, and he is born 
again of God. 

2. But though it be allowed, that justification and the new 
birth are, in point of time, inseparable from each other, yet 
they are easily distinguished, as being not the same, but things 
of a widely different nature. Justification implies only a 
relative, the new birth a real, change. God in justifying us 
does something for us ; in begetting us again, He does the work 
in us. The former changes our outward relation to God, so 
that of enemies we become children ; by the latter our inmost 
souls are changed, so that of sinners we become saints. The 

in complete indifference to religion 
were suddenly awakened to a sense 
of their sin and need, and after pass- 
ing through a period of distressing 
conviction found immediate peace 
and joy through trusting in Christ. 
At first Wesley doubted the possi- 
bility of so great a change being 
wrought in a moment ; but in April 
1738 he found in the Scriptures 
' scarce any instances there of other 
than instantaneous conversions ' ; 
and the following day (April 23) he 
received the evidence of several 
living witnesses to the fact. His 
own conversion and that of his 
brother Charles in May confirmed 
his conclusion. Whilst modern psy- 
chologists are rather disposed to 
regard conversions of this type as 
extreme cases, and to emphasize the 
gradual growth of the religious 
character in young people who have 
been brought up in the nurture and 
admonition of the Lord as the more 
normal and ideal type, it must not 
be forgotten that, though in many 
cases there is no consciousness of any 
definite time of conversion, in the 
majority (at least that is my experi- 
ence) there has been a day when 
they consciously accepted Christ as 
their Saviour. Perhaps that is partly 
due to the insistence in Methodist 

teaching on the need for clear deci- 
sion and a positive act of faith as 
the condition of salvation ; and it 
may be noted that Prof. William 
James, in Varieties of Religious Ex- 
perience, p. 227, says : ' For Method- 
ism, unless there have been a crisis 
of this sort, salvation is only offered, 
not effectively received, and Christ's 
sacrifice in so far forth is incomplete. 
Methodism surely here follows, if 
not the healthier-minded, yet on the 
whole the profounder spiritual in- 

2. To one who, like St. Paul, has 
been living a life of alienation from 
Christ, conversion naturally seems 
in the first instance the removal of 
the burden of guilt and condemna- 
tion (justification), and the restora- 
tion to right relations with God 
(adoption) ; to another who, like 
St. John, has never known what it 
is to be at enmity with the Saviour, 
the emphasis lies on the new life of 
joy and power over sin (regenera- 
tion) and the new sense of purity 
(sanctification) . But this is a matter 
of emphasis, not of fact ; and St. 
John tells us how God is faithful 
and just to forgive us our sins, whilst 
St. Paul prays for his converts that 
Christ may dwell in their hearts by 
faith. As Weslev implies conver- 


Sermon XV 

one restores us to the favour, the other to the image, of God. 
The one is the taking away the guilt, the other the taking away 
the power, of sin so that, although they are joined together 
in point of time, yet are they of wholly distinct natures. 

3. The not discerning this, the not observing the wide 
difference there is between being justified and being born 
again, has occasioned exceeding great confusion of thought in 
many who have treated on this subject , particularly when they 
have attempted to explain this great privilege of the children 
of God , to show how ' whosoever is born of God doth not 
commit sin/ 

4. In order to apprehend this clearly, it may be necessary, 
first, to consider what is the proper meaning of that expression, 
' Whosoever is born of God ' , and, secondly, to inquire in 
what sense he ' doth not commit sin.' 

1. 1. First, we are to consider, what is the proper meaning 
of that expression, ' Whosoever is born of God.' And, in 
general, from all the passages of holy writ wherein this expres- 
sion, ' the being born of God,' occurs, we may learn that it 
implies not barely the being baptized, or any outward change 
whatever , but a vast inward change, a change wrought in the 
soul, by the operation of the Holy Ghost , a change in the 
whole manner of our existence , for, from the moment we are 
born of God, we live in quite another manner than we did 
before , we are, as it were, in another world. 

2. The ground and reason of the expression is easy to be 
understood. When we undergo this great change, we may, 

sion is one and indivisible in fact, 
though it may be analysed in thought 
and its various elements distin- 
guished. It is curious that so 
earnest a student as Wesley was 
both of the earlier chapters of 
Romans and of the first Epistle of 
John, both of which he frequently 
took as the subjects of his daily ex- 
positions to his societies, should not 
have realized more clearly than he 

appears to have done the difference 
in the point of view of the two great 
Apostles as regards the meaning of 

I. 1. ' Not barely the being bap- 
tized.' This is to guard against any 
possible misunderstanding of what 
is said in the first paragraph of the 
previous sermon. For a fuller state- 
ment of Wesley's view, see Sermon 

The Great Privilege of those that are Bom of God 301 

with much propriety, be said to be born again, because there 
is so near a resemblance between the circumstances of the 
natural and of the spiritual birth , so that to consider the 
circumstances of the natural birth, is the most easy way to 
understand the spiritual. 

3. The child which is not yet born subsists indeed by the 
air, as does everything which has life ; but feels it not, nor 
anything else, unless in a very dull and imperfect manner. 
It hears little, if at all , the organs of hearing being as yet closed 
up. It sees nothing ; having its eyes fast shut, and being 
surrounded with utter darkness. There are, it may be, some 
faint beginnings of life, when the time of its birth draws nigh, 
and some motion consequent thereon, whereby it is distin- 
guished from a mere mass of matter ; but it has no senses ; 
all these avenues of the soul are hitherto quite shut up. Of 
consequence, it has scarce any intercourse with this visible 
world ; nor any knowledge, conception, or idea, of the things 
that occur therein. 

4. The reason why he that is not yet born is wholly a stranger 
to the visible world, is not because it is afar off (it is very nigh ; 
it surrounds him on every side) , but, partly, because he has 
not those senses, they are not yet opened in his soul, whereby 
alone it is possible to hold commerce with the material world , 
and partly, because so thick a veil is cast between, through 
which he can discern nothing. 

5. But no sooner is the child born into the world, than 
he exists in a quite different manner. He now feels the air 
with which he is surrounded, and which pours into him from 
every side, as fast as he alternately breathes it back, to sustain 
the flame of life and hence springs a continual increase of 

2. This analogy between physical newly-born child is not only sen- 
and spiritual birth is admirably 
worked out ; and especially the 
point as to the need for spiritual re- 
spiration for the continuance of the 
new life. It is no mere fanciful 
analogy, but an excellent case of 
natural law in the spiritual world. 
Indeed, Wesley might have gone a 
step further, and shown that the 

sible of the world into which he is 
born, but is also capable of activity 
in relation to it. He has a motor 
as well as a sensory equipment, 
which is strictly analogous to the 
power over sin exercised by the re- 
generate soul. He is not a passive 
recipient, but an active agent. 

302 Sermon XV 

strength, of motion, and of sensation , all the bodily senses 
being now awakened, and furnished with their proper objects. 
His eyes are now opened to perceive the light, which, silently 
flowing in upon them, discovers not only itself, but an infinite 
variety of things, with which before he was wholly unac- 
quainted. His ears are unclosed, and sounds rush in with 
endless diversity. Every sense is employed upon such objects 
as are peculiarly suitable to it , and by these inlets the soul, 
having an open intercourse with the visible world, acquires 
more and more knowledge of sensible things, of all the things 
which are under the sun. 

6. So it is with him that is born of God. Before that 
great change is wrought, although he subsists by Him, in 
whom all that have life ' live, and move, and have their being,' 
yet he is not sensible of God ; he does not feel, he has no inward 
consciousness of His presence. He does not perceive that 
divine breath of life, without which he cannot subsist a moment : 
nor is he sensible of any of the things of God , they make no 
impression upon his soul. God is continually calling to him 
from on high, but he heareth not , his ears are shut, so that 
the ' voice of the charmer ' is lost on him, ' charm he never so 
wisely.' He seeth not the things of the Spirit of God , the 
eyes of his understanding being closed, and utter darkness 
covering his whole soul, surrounding him on every side. It 
is true he may have some faint dawnings of life, some small 
beginnings of spiritual motion ; but as yet he has no spiritual 
senses capable of discerning spiritual objects , consequently, 
he ' discerneth not the things of the Spirit of God , he cannot 
know them, because they are spiritually discerned.' 

7. Hence he has scarce any knowledge of the invisible 
world, as he has scarce any intercourse with it. Not that it 
is afar off no he is in the midst of it , it encompasses him 
round about. The other world, as we usually term it, is not 
far from every one of us it is above, and beneath, and on 
every side. Only the natural man discerneth it not , partly, 
because he has no spiritual senses, whereby alone we can discern 
the things of God ; partly, because so thick a veil is interposed 
as he knows not how to penetrate. 

The Great Privilege of those that are Born of God 303 

8. But when he is born of God, born of the Spirit, how is 
the manner of his existence changed ! His whole soul is now 
sensible of God, and he can say, by sure experience, ' Thou 
art about my bed, and about my path ' ; I feel Thee in all my 
ways : ' Thou besettest me behind and before, and layest Thy 
hand upon me.' The spirit or breath of God is immediately 
inspired, breathed into the new-born soul ; and the same breath 
which comes from, returns to, God : as it is continually received 
by faith, so it is continually rendered back by love, by prayer, 
and praise, and thanksgiving , love, and praise, and prayer 
being the breath of every soul which is truly born of God. 
And by this new kind of spiritual respiration, spiritual life is 
not only sustained, but increased day by day, together with 
spiritual strength, and motion, and sensation ; all the senses of 
the soul being now awake, and capable of discerning spiritual 
good and evil. 

9. ' The eyes of his understanding ' are now ' open,' and 
he ' seeth Him that is invisible.' He sees what is ' the exceed- 
ing greatness of His power ' and of His love towards them that 
believe. He sees that God is merciful to him a sinner , that 
he is reconciled through the Son of His love. He clearly 
perceives both the pardoning love of God, and all His ' exceed- 
ing great and precious promises.' ' God, who commanded 
the light to shine out of darkness, hath shined,' and doth shine, 
' in his heart,' to enlighten him with ' the knowledge of the 
glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.' All the darkness is 
now passed away, and he abides in the light of God's coun- 

10. His ears are now opened, and the voice of God no 
longer calls in vain. He hears and obeys the heavenly calling , 
he knows the voice of his Shepherd. All his spiritual 
senses being now awakened, he has a clear intercourse with 
the invisible world ; and hence he knows more and more of 
the things which before it could not ' enter into his heart to 
conceive.' He now knows what the peace of God is , what is 
joy in the Holy Ghost ; what the love of God which is shed 
abroad in the hearts of them that believe in Him through 
Christ Jesus. Thus the veil being removed which before 

304 Sermon XV 

interrupted the light and voice, the knowledge and love of God, 
he who is born of the Spirit dwelleth in love, ' dwelleth in God, 
and God in him.' 

II. 1. Having considered the meaning of that expression, 
' Whosoever is born of God/ it remains, in the second place, 
to inquire, in what sense he ' doth not commit sin.' 

Now one who is so born of God, as hath been above de- 
scribed, who continually receives into his soul the breath of 
life from God, the gracious influence of His Spirit, and con- 
tinually renders it back ; one who thus believes and loves, 
who by faith perceives the continual actings of God upon his 
spirit, and, by a kind of spiritual reaction returns the grace 
he receives, in unceasing love, and praise, and prayer , not only 
doth not commit sin, while he thus keepeth himself, but so 
long as this ' seed remaineth in him, he cannot sin, because he 
is born of God.' 

2. By sin, I here understand outward sin, according to the 
plain, common acceptation of the word , an actual, voluntary 
transgression of the law , of the revealed, written law of God ; 
of any commandment of God, acknowledged to be such at 
the time that it is transgressed. But ' whosoever is born of 
God,' while he abideth in faith and love, and in the spirit of 
prayer and thanksgiving, not only doth not, but cannot, thus 
commit sin. So long as he thus believeth in God through 
Christ, and loves Him, and is pouring out his heart before Him, 
he cannot voluntarily transgress any command of God, either 
by speaking or acting what he knows God hath forbidden : so 
long that seed which remaineth in him, that loving, praying, 
thankful faith, compels him to refrain from whatsoever he 
knows to be an abomination in the sight of God. 

3. But here a difficulty will immediately occur ; and one 
that to many has appeared insuperable, and induced them 

II. 1. This sentence is quoted in the agent.' The older meaning is 

the Oxford English Dictionary as the ' repulsion exerted in opposition to 

earliest example of the use of ' re- impact or pressure.' 

action ' in this sense ; - the influ- 2. This restriction of the meaning 

ence which a thing, acted upon by of sin is somewhat arbitrary ; but 

another, exercises in return upon see section 7. 

The Great Privilege of those that are Bom of God 305 

to deny the plain assertion of the Apostle, and give up the 
privilege of the children of God. 

It is plain, in fact, that those whom we cannot deny to have 
been truly born of God (the Spirit of God having given us 
in His Word this infallible testimony concerning them), 
nevertheless, not only could, but did, commit sin, even gross, 
outward sin. They did transgress the plain, known laws of 
God, speaking or acting what they knew He had forbidden. 

4. Thus David was unquestionably born of God or ever 
he was anointed king over Israel. He knew in whom he 
had believed ; 'he was strong in faith, giving glory to God.' 
' The Lord,' saith he, ' is my Shepherd ; therefore can I lack 
nothing. He shall feed me in green pastures, and lead me 
forth beside the waters of comfort. Yea, though I walk 
through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil ; 
for Thou art with me ' (Ps. xxiii. 1, &c). He was filled with 
love ; such as often constrained him to cry out, ' I will love 
Thee, O Lord, my strength. The Lord is my stony rock, 
and my defence , the horn also of my salvation, and my 

refuge ' (Ps. xviii. 1, 2). He was a man of prayer , pouring 
out his soul before God in all circumstances of life ; and 
abundant in praises and thanksgiving ' Thy praise,' saith 
he, ' shall be ever in my mouth ' (Ps. xxxiv. 1) : ' Thou art 
my God, and I will thank Thee : Thou art my God, and I 

4. Of the psalms here quoted, one 
(Ps. xviii) is certainly by David ; 
xxiii and xxxiv are assigned to him 
in the titles in the A.V. ; cxviii is 
anonymous, and is judged by Dr. 
Davison to belong to the period 
after the Captivity. My own con- 
viction is that the critics have not 
taken sufficiently into account the 
use of the Book of Psalms as the 
hymn-book of the Jewish Church, 
and the modifications that take place 
in successive editions of a hymn- 
book to suit altered times and cir- 
cumstances. The growth of the 
Methodist Hymn-Book is the best 
analogy I know to the growth of 
I — 20 

the Book of Psalms. Thus the first 
line of verse 5 in Hymn 397 of the 
1876 Hymn-Book, 'Though eighteen 
hundred years are past,' &c, does 
not prove that the hymn was not 
written by Charles Wesley ; any 
more than a reference to the Captivity 
in a psalm proves that it is post- 
exilic, or to the Temple that it is 
not Davidic in origin. However, 
these questions had not arisen in 
Wesley's time ; and he naturally 
accepts the titles as settling the 
question. In any case, there can be 
no doubt as to the strong religious 
strain in David's character. The 
quotations are from the P.-B. version. 


Sermon XV 

will praise Thee ' (Ps. cxviii. 28). And yet such a child 
of God could and did commit sin ; yea, the horrid sins of 
adultery and murder. 

5. And even after the Holy Ghost was more largely given, 
after ' life and immortality were brought to light by the 
gospel,' we want not instances of the same melancholy kind, 
which were also doubtless written for our instruction. Thus 
he who (probably from his selling all that he had, and bring- 
ing the price for the relief of his poor brethren) was by the 
Apostles themselves ' surnamed Barnabas,' that is, ' the son 
of consolation ' (Acts iv. 36, 37) , who was so honoured at 
Antioch, as to be selected with Saul out of all the disciples, 
to carry their relief unto the brethren in Judea (Acts xi. 29, 
30) , this Barnabas, who, at his return from Judea, was, by 
the peculiar direction of the Holy Ghost, solemnly ' separated 
from the other prophets and teachers, for the work where- 
unto God had called him ' (xiii. 1-4), even to accompany 
the great Apostle among the Gentiles, and to be his fellow 
labourer in every place, — nevertheless, was afterwards so 
sharp (xv. 35, 39), in his contention with St. Paul (because 
he ' thought it not good to take with them John,' in his visit- 
ing the brethren a second time, ' who had departed from them 
from Pamphylia, and went not with them to the work ') that 
he himself also departed from the work ; that he ' took John, 
and sailed unto Cyprus ' (xv. 39) ; forsaking him to whom he 
had been in so immediate a manner joined by the Holy Ghost. 

6. An instance more astonishing than both these is given 
by St. Paul in his Epistle to the Galatians. When Peter, the 

5. 'Barnabas' is more correctly 
interpreted ' Son of Exhortation.' 
The conflict of judgement as to 
John Mark's fitness for missionary 
work between Barnabas and Paul 
does not necessarily involve any 
sin on either side. Good men may 
differ in opinion and may express 
their differences strongly, and act 
upon them, too, without committing 
sin. The word used of this conten- 
tion is used also of Paul's indigna- 

tion at the sight of the idols at 
Athens ; and is applied in the LXX 
to the righteous anger of God 
(Deut. xxix. 28 ; Jer. xxxix. 37). 
If difference of opinion as to a 
brother's suitability for a particular 
piece of work is sinful, the Lord have 
mercy on the Stationing Committee ! 
A better case might have been made 
out against Barnabas from his con- 
duct at Antioch, referred to in the 
next paragraph. 

The Great Privilege of those that are Born of God 307 

aged, the zealous, the first of the apostles, one of the three 
most highly favoured by his Lord, ' was come to Antioch, I 
withstood him to the face, because he was to be blamed. For 
before that certain came from James, he did eat with the 
Gentiles ' — the Heathens converted to the Christian faith — as 
having been peculiarly taught of God, that he ' should not call 
any man common or unclean ' (Acts x. 28). ' But when they 
were come, he separated himself, fearing them which were 
of the circumcision. And the other Jews dissembled likewise 
with him ; insomuch that Barnabas also was carried away 
with their dissimulation. But when I saw that they walked 
not uprightly according to the truth of the gospel, I said unto 
Peter before them all, If thou, being a Jew, livest after the 
manner of the Gentiles ' — not regarding the ceremonial law 
of Moses — ' why compellest thou the Gentiles to live as do 
the Jews ' ? (Gal. ii. 11, &c). Here is also plain, undeniable 
sin committed by one who was undoubtedly born of God. 
But how can this be reconciled with the assertion of St. John, 
if taken in the obvious literal meaning, that ' whosoever is 
born of God, doth not commit sin ' ? 

7. I answer, What has been long observed is this : so long 
as ' he that is born of God keepeth himself ' (which he is 
able to do by the grace of God), ' the wicked one toucheth 
him not ' , but if he keepeth not himself, if he abideth not in 
the faith, he may commit sin even as another man. 

It is easy therefore to understand, how any of these children 
of God might be moved from his own steadfastness, and yet 
the great truth of God, declared by the Apostle, remain stead- 
fast and unshaken. He did not ' keep himself/ by that grace 
of God which was sufficient for him. He fell, step by step, 
first, into negative, inward sin, not ' stirring up the gift of God 

7. This analysis of the successive 
stages of the believer's fall into sin 
is true to experience, as, alas ! we 
all know too well. The only point 
that provokes criticism is the admis- 
sion that he may fall into positive 
inward sin before he loses his faith. 
The presence of a stimulus to wrong 

desire inevitably awakens the 
thought of its gratification ; but 
there is no sin as yet. But if the 
attention is voluntarily withdrawn 
from God and turned to the gratifica- 
tion of desire, so as to dwell upon 
it with satisfaction, positive inward 
sin is committed ; but not before 

3 o8 

Sermon XV 

which was in him,' not ' watching unto prayer,' not ' pressing 
on to the mark of the prize of his high calling ' then into 
positive inward sin, inclining to wickedness with his heart, 
giving way to some evil desire or temper : next he lost his 
faith, his sight of a pardoning God, and consequently his love 
of God ; and, being then weak and like another man, he was 
capable of committing even outward sin. 

8. To explain this by a particular instance : David was 
born of God, and saw God by faith. He loved God in sincerity. 
He could truly say, ' Whom have I in heaven but Thee ? 
and there is none upon earth,' neither person nor thing, 
' that I desire in comparison of Thee.' But still there re- 
mained in his heart that corruption of nature, which is the 
seed of all evil. 

' He was walking upon the roof of his house ' (2 Sam. xi. 
2), probably praising the God whom his soul loved, when he 
looked down, and saw Bathsheba. He felt a temptation , a 
thought which tended to evil. The Spirit of God did not fail 
to convince him of this. He doubtless heard and knew the 
warning voice ; but he yielded in some measure to the thought, 
and the temptation began to prevail over him. Hereby his 
spirit was sullied ; he saw God still ; but it was more dimly 
than before. He loved God still ; but not in the same degree , 
not with the same strength and ardour of affection. Yet God 
checked him again, though His Spirit was grieved ; and His 
voice, though fainter and fainter, still whispered, ' Sin lieth at 
the door , look unto Me and be thou saved.' But he would 
not hear , he looked again, not unto God, but unto the for- 
bidden object , till nature was superior to grace, and kindled 
lust in his soul. 

faith, the vision of God, has been 
to some extent lost. Or perhaps 
it would be better to say that the 
loss of faith and the fixing of the 
attention on the forbidden gratifica- 
tion are strictly contemporaneous, 
and are indeed two aspects of one 
mental attitude. It is rather aston- 
ishing, in view of his earlier opinion 

as to the nature of sin, that 
Wesley should here seem to admit 
that inward sin is consistent with 
the full possession of faith. He 
speaks more consistently in Sermon 
XLVI, iv. 13, ' A man may be in 
God's favour though he feel sin ; 
but not if he yields to it.' 

8. The horse rushing into the 

The Great Privilege of those that are Born of God 309 

The eye of his mind was now closed again, and God vanished 
out of his sight. Faith, the divine, supernatural intercourse 
with God, and the love of God, ceased together : he then rushed 
on as a horse into the battle, and knowingly committed the 
outward sin. 

9. You see the unquestionable progress from grace to sin : 
thus it goes on, from step to step. (1) The divine seed of 
loving, conquering faith, remains in him that is born of God. 
' He keepeth himself,' by the grace of God, and ' cannot com- 
mit sin.' (2) A temptation arises ; whether from the world, 
the flesh, or the devil, it matters not. (3) The Spirit of God 
gives him warning that sin is near, and bids him more 
abundantly watch unto prayer. (4) He gives way, in some 
degree, to the temptation, which now begins to grow pleasing to 
him. (5) The Holy Spirit is grieved , his faith is weakened ; 
and his love of God grows cold. (6) The Spirit reproves him 
more sharply, and saith, ' This is the way ; walk thou in it.' 
(7) He turns away from the painful voice of God, and listens 
to the pleasing voice of the tempter. (8) Evil desire begins 
and spreads in his soul, till faith and love vanish away : he is 
then capable of committing outward sin, the power of the Lord 
being departed from him. 

10. To explain this by another instance : the Apostle Peter 
was full of faith and of the Holy Ghost , and hereby keeping 
himself, he had a conscience void of offence toward God and 
toward man. 

Walking thus in simplicity and godly sincerity, ' before 
that certain came from James, he did eat with the Gentiles,' 
knowing that what God had cleansed was not common or 

But ' when they were come,' a temptation arose in his 
heart, ' to fear those of the circumcision ' (the Jewish con- 
verts, who were zealous for circumcision and the other rites 

battle used to be frequently asso- scriptural, though it probably took 

ciated in our old Methodist prayer- its rise from the recollection of Job's 

meetings with the greedy ox that war-horse who ' smelleth the battle 

lappeth up water as a type of the afar off, the thunder of the captains 

reckless sinner. The phrase is not and the shouting.' 


Sermon XV 

of the Mosaic law), and regard the favour and praise of these 
men, more than the praise of God. 

He was warned by the Spirit that sin was near : neverthe- 
less, he yielded to it in some degree, even to sinful fear of 
man, and his faith and love were proportionably weakened. 

God reproved him again for giving place to the devil. 
Yet he would not hearken to the voice of his Shepherd , but 
gave himself up to that slavish fear, and thereby quenched the 

Then God disappeared, and faith and love being extinct, 
he committed the outward sin : walking not uprightly, not 
' according to the truth of the gospel,' he 'separated himself ' 
from his Christian brethren, and by his evil example, if not 
advice also, ' compelled even the Gentiles to live after the 
manner of the Jews ' ; to entangle themselves again with that 
' yoke of bondage,' from which ' Christ had set them free.' 

Thus it is unquestionably true, that he who is born of God, 
keeping himself, doth not, cannot commit sin , and yet, if he 
keepeth not himself, he may commit all manner of sin with 

III. i. From the preceding considerations we may learn, 
first, to give a clear and incontestable answer to a question 
which has frequently perplexed many who were sincere of 
heart : ' Does sin precede or follow the loss of faith ? Does 
a child of God first commit sin, and thereby lose his faith ? 
Or does he lose his faith first, before he can commit sin ? ' 

I answer, Some sin of omission, at least, must necessarily 
precede the loss of faith , some inward sin but the loss of 
faith must precede the committing outward sin. 

The more any believer examines his own heart, the more 

III. i. That some sin of omission 
must necessarily precede the loss of 
faith cannot be maintained ; unless 
it means the failure to turn at once 
to God in the moment of temptation. 
A man strikes me suddenly ; and 
instinctively I strike back at him. 
It is true that if, on receiving the 

blow, I had at once fixed my atten- 
tion on God, I should have been 
able to restrain myself ; but it is 
rather pedantic to call this a sin of 
omission. Probably what Wesley 
means is that the cause of the failure 
to turn to God is that there has been 
some neglect of prayer and medita- 

The Great Privilege of those that are Born of God 311 

will he be convinced of this : that faith, working by love, 
excludes both inward and outward sin from a soul watching 
unto prayer , that nevertheless we are even then liable to 
temptation, particularly to the sin that did easily beset us , 
that if the loving eye of the soul be steadily fixed on God, 
the temptation soon vanishes away but if not, if we are 
i^eXKo/ievoL (as the Apostle James speaks, chap. i. 14), drawn 
out of God by our own desire, and BeXea^o/xevoi, caught by the 
bait of present or promised pleasures , then that desire, con- 
ceived in us, brings forth sin , and having by that inward sin 
destroyed our faith, it casts us headlong into the snare of the 
devil, so that we may commit any outward sin whatever. 

2. From what has been said, we may learn, secondly, what 
the life of God in the soul of a believer is ; wherein it properly 
consists , and what is immediately and necessarily implied 
therein. It immediately and necessarily implies the continual 
inspiration of God's Holy Spirit , God's breathing into the 
soul, and the soul's breathing back what it first receives from 
God , a continual action of God upon the soul, and a reaction 
of the soul upon God ; an unceasing presence of God, the 
loving, pardoning God, manifested to the heart, and perceived 
by faith , and an unceasing return of love, praise and prayer, 
offering up all the thoughts of our hearts, all the words of our 
tongues, all the works of our hands, all our body, soul, and 
spirit, to be a holy sacrifice, acceptable unto God in Christ 

3. And hence we may, thirdly, infer the absolute necessity 

tion and the means of grace, which 
has weakened the sense of the pre- 
sence of God. 

' So that we may commit any out- 
ward sin whatever.' Again Wesley 
seems to regard a single lapse into 
outward sin as a complete forfeiture 
of the favour of God, and a loss of 
all that we have gained by conver- 
sion. This is mischievous doctrine. 
A man's character is to be judged 
by his habitual acts, not by his occa- 
sional lapses ; he does not need to 

be born again after every slip into 
sin. ' He that is bathed needeth not 
save to wash his feet, but is gener- 
ally [as a whole] clean.' As 
William James says in Var. of Relig. 
Exper., p. 257, ' That it [the con- 
version experience] should for even 
a short time show a human being 
what the high-water mark of his 
spiritual capacity is, this is what 
constitutes its importance — an im- 
portance which backsliding cannot 

3i2 Sermon XV 

of this reaction of the soul ( be called), in order 
to the continuance of the divine life therein. For it plainly 
appears, God does not continue to act upon the soul, unless 
the soul reacts upon God. He prevents us indeed with the 
blessings of His goodness. He first loves us, and manifests 
Himself unto us. While we are yet afar off, He calls us to 
Himself, and shines upon our hearts. But if we do not then 
love Him who first loved us ; if we will not hearken to His 
voice , if we turn our eye away from Him, and will not attend 
to the light which He pours in upon us ; His Spirit will not 
always strive : He will gradually withdraw, and leave us to the 
darkness of our own hearts. He will not continue to breathe 
into our soul, unless our soul breathes toward Him again . 
unless our love, and prayer, and thanksgiving return to Him, 
a sacrifice wherewith He is well pleased. 

4. Let us learn, lastly, to follow that direction of the great 
Apostle, ' Be not high-minded, but fear.' Let us fear sin, 
more than death or hell. Let us have a jealous (though not 
painful) fear, lest we should lean to our own deceitful hearts. 
' Let him that standeth take heed lest he fall.' Even he who 
now standeth fast in the grace of God, in the faith that over- 
cometh the world, may nevertheless fall into inward sin, and 
thereby ' make shipwreck of his faith.' And how easily then 
will outward sin regain its dominion over him ! Thou, there- 
fore, O man of God ! watch always, that thou mayest always 
hear the voice of God ! Watch, that thou mayest pray with- 
out ceasing, at all times, and in all places, pouring out thy 
heart before Him ! So shalt thou always believe, and always 
love, and never commit sin. 

3. ' Prevents ' ; i.e. anticipates, goes before us. 


As a practical manual of Christian conduct, it would be hard to find 
anything so good as this noble series of thirteen sermons. Nothing 
could prove more conclusively that Wesley's enthusiastic preaching 
of justification by faith gave no excuse to his followers for ' making 
void the law through faith.' Their ethical teaching glows throughout 
with spiritual fervour ; and their appeal to the conscience is irresis- 
tible. They are a candle of the Lord, searching the innermost parts 
of the soul ; and in reading them once again, I have been driven to 
my knees in penitence and confession, many and many a time. 

As an exposition of the Sermon on the Mount, they have certain 
obvious deficiencies. There is no attempt to show the relation of 
our Lord's teaching to the Old Testament Scriptures and to the current 
thought of His own time. Nor is there any discussion of the relation 
of St. Matthew's version to that given in St. Luke's Gospel. It is 
now generally agreed that we have in Luke vi. 20-49 a report of the 
discourse as it was delivered by our Lord ; and that the author of 
the first Gospel (Matthew or another) has incorporated with it many 
sayings of our Lord spoken at other times and under other circum- 
stances, which in his judgement threw light upon various points dealt 
with ; and made the survey of the ethics of the kingdom more com- 
plete. Moreover, he has given a deeper spiritual meaning to some 
of the sayings than they conveyed in their first form ; as when he 
changes ' Blessed are ye poor ' to ' Blessed are the poor in spirit.' 
But we who believe in the inspiration of the Scriptures recognize in 
these additions and modifications the comment of the Spirit of Christ 
upon His words ; and His comments have no less authority than 
the text on which they are based. And if Wesley finds in the Beati- 
tudes, as he does, a summary of the Christian life, beginning with 
repentance and proceeding through justification to entire sanctifica- 
tion, it is no real objection to say that the meaning he attaches to 
them cannot have been that which was suggested to the minds of 
the first hearers of the sermon on the hill in Galilee ; for he, too, wrote 
under the influence of the same Spirit, who has been given to guide 
Christ's people into all the truth. 

The foundation of these sermons was laid on the good ship Simmonds 
during Wesley's voyage to Georgia in 1735. We have Ingham's 
authority for saying that ' during the voyage Wesley went over our 
Saviour's Sermon on the Mount.' In the Journal for April 1, 1739, 
Wesley says : ' In the evening, Mr. Whitefield being gone [i.e. to visit 
the Baldwin Street Society ; he did not leave Bristol till the next morn- 


314 Sermons XVI-XXVIII 

ing], I began expounding our Lord's Sermon on the Mount (one 
pretty remarkable precedent of field- preaching, though I suppose 
there were churches at that time also) to a little society which was 
accustomed to meet once or twice a week in Nicholas Street.' This 
was in Bristol, whither he had come the day before to meet White- 
field. On February 17 Whitefield had for the first time preached in 
the open air to some two hundred colliers at Kingswood ; and had 
continued his outdoor services during the intervening six weeks. 
Wesley heard him at the Bowling Green this same Sunday morning. 
' I could scarce reconcile myself at first,' he says, ' to this strange way 
of preaching in the fields, having been all my life (till very lately) 

so tenacious of every point relating to decency and order, that I should 
have thought the saving of souls almost a sin if it had not been done 
in a church.' However, on Monday, April 2, he says : ' At four in 
the afternoon I submitted to be more vile, and proclaimed in the 
highways the glad tidings of salvation, speaking from a little eminence 
in a ground adjoining to the city to about three thousand people.' 
The text was Isa. lxi. 1, 2 ; the place was in St. Philip's Marsh near 
the junction of Old Bread Street and Cheese Lane, then called the 
Brickyard, and now occupied by the goods-yard of the Midland Rail- 
way. On Saturday, July 21, he records : ' I began expounding, a 
second time, our Lord's Sermon on the Mount. In the morning, 
Sunday the 22nd, as I was explaining " Blessed are the poor in spirit " 
to about three thousand people, we had a fair opportunity of showing 
all men what manner of spirit we were of ; for in the middle of the 
sermon the pressgang came, and seized on one of the hearers.' This 
service was held on the Bowling Green in the heart of Bristol. Again 
in October he went through the Sermon on the Mount and the Epistles 
of St. John ' in Temple Backs,' still in Bristol. On Monday, June 16, 
1740, he expounded Matt, v at Mr. Crouch's in London ; and in 
September he went to get a little retirement to the vicarage at Bexley, 
a village in Kent, about a dozen miles south-east of London, where 
his old friend the Rev. Henry Piers was the incumbent ; ' where in the 
mornings and evenings I expounded the Sermon on the Mount.' The 
exposition was repeated once more at Kingswood in January 1741. 
In June 1742, on Sunday the 13th, he relates : ' At six I preached for 
the last time in Epworth churchyard to a vast multitude gathered 
together from all points, on the beginning of our Lord's Sermon on 
the Mount. I continued among them for near three hours ; and yet 
we scarce knew how to part.' There are many records of the preaching 
of individual sermons from the series to the end of Wesley's life. The 
first nine were published in Vol. II of the sermons in 1748 ; the re- 
maining four in Vol. Ill in 1750. No. XII was published separately 
in 1758 under the title of A Caution against False Prophets, particularly 
Recommended to the People called Methodists. 



This particular sermon is recorded as having been preached near 
Chepstow on October 15, 1739, and at Whitechapel on June 21, 1740. 
On September 17, 1739, Wesley preached at Plaistow on ' Blessed are 
they that mourn.' ' It pleased God,' he says, ' to give us in that 
hour two living instances of that piercing sense both of the guilt and 
power of sin, that dread of the wrath of God, and that full conviction 
of man's inability either to remove the power, or atone for the guilt, 
of sin (called by the world despair) ; in which properly consist that 
poverty of spirit and mourning which are the gate of Christian blessed- 
ness.' He preached again from this text at Wapping on July 11, 1740. 

And seeing the multitudes, He went up into a mountain : and when He 

was set, His disciples came unto Him : 
And He opened His mouth, and taught them, saying, 
Blessed are the poor in spirit : for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. 
Blessed are they that mourn : for they shall be comforted. 

— Matt. v. 1-4. 

i. Our Lord had now gone ' about all Galilee ' (Matt, iv 23), 
beginning at the time ' when John was cast into prison ' 
(verse 12), not only ' teaching in their synagogues, and preach- 
ing the gospel of the kingdom,' but likewise ' healing all manner 
of sickness and all manner of disease among the people.' It 
was a natural consequence of this, that ' there followed Him 
great multitudes from Galilee, and from Decapolis, and from 
Jerusalem, and from Judea, and from the region beyond 
Jordan ' (verse 25). ' And seeing the multitudes,' whom no 
synagogue could contain, even had there been any at hand, ' He 
went up into a mountain,' where there was room for all that 


316 Sermon XVI 

came unto Him from every quarter. ' And when He was set/ 
as the manner of the Jews was, ' His disciples came unto Him. 
And He opened His mouth ' (an expression denoting the begin- 
ning of a solemn discourse), ' and taught them, saying. 

2. Let us observe, who it is that is here speaking, that we 
may take heed how we hear. It is the Lord of heaven and 
earth, the Creator of all , who, as such, has a right to dispose 
of all His creatures , the Lord our Governor, whose kingdom 
is from everlasting, and ruleth over all , the great Lawgiver, 
who can well enforce all His laws, being ' able to save and to 
destroy,' yea, to punish with ' everlasting destruction from 
His presence and from the glory of His power.' It is the 
eternal Wisdom of the Father, who knoweth whereof we are 
made and understands our inmost frame , who knows how we 
stand related to God, to one another, to every creature which 
God hath made, and, consequently, how to adapt every law He 
prescribes to all the circumstances wherein He hath placed us. 
It is He who is ' loving unto every man, whose mercy is over 
all His works ' ; the God of love, who, having emptied Himself 
of His eternal glory, is come forth from His Father to declare 
His will to the children of men, and then goeth again to the 
Father ; who is sent of God ' to open the eyes of the blind, 
and to give light to them that sit in darkness.' It is the great 
Prophet of the Lord, concerning whom God had solemnly 
declared long ago, ' Whosoever will not hearken unto My words 
which He shall speak in My name, I will require it of him' 
(Deut. xviii. 19) ; or, as the Apostle expresses it, ' Every soul 
which will not hear that Prophet shall be destroyed from among 
the people ' (Acts iii. 23). 

3. And what is it which He is teaching ? The Son of God, 
who came from heaven, is here showing us the way to heaven , 
to the place which He hath prepared for us ; the glory He had 
before the world began. He is teaching us the true way to 
life everlasting ; the royal way which leads to the kingdom ; 
and the only true way — for there is none besides : all other 
paths lead to destruction. From the character of the Speaker, 
we are well assured that He hath declared the full and perfect 
will of God. He hath uttered not one tittle too much— nothing 

Upon our Lord's Sermon on the Mount I 317 

more than He had received of the Father , nor too little — 
He hath not shunned to declare the whole counsel of God , 
much less hath He uttered anything wrong, anything contrary 
to the will of Him that sent Him. All His words are true and 
right concerning all things, and shall stand fast for ever and 

And we may easily remark, that in explaining and confirm- 
ing these faithful and true sayings, He takes care to refute not 
only the mistakes of the Scribes and Pharisees, which then were 
the false comments whereby the Jewish teachers of that age 
had perverted the Word of God, but all the practical mistakes 
that are inconsistent with salvation, which should ever arise 
in the Christian church ; all the comments whereby the 
Christian teachers (so called) of any age or nation should 
pervert the Word of God, and teach unwary souls to seek death 
in the error of their life. 

4. And hence we are naturally led to observe, whom it is 
that He is here teaching. Not the Apostles alone : if so, He 
had no need to have gone up into the mountain. A room in 
the house of Matthew, or any of His disciples, would have 
contained the twelve. Nor does it in any wise appear that the 
disciples who came unto Him were the twelve only. 01 
/juaOrjTal avrov, without any force put upon the expression, may 
be understood of all who desired to learn of Him. But to put 
this out of all question, to make it undeniably plain that 
where it is said, ' He opened His mouth and taught them,' the 
word them includes all the multitudes who went up with Him 
into the mountain, we need only observe the concluding verses 
of the seventh chapter : ' And it came to pass, when Jesus 
had ended these sayings, the multitudes (ol ox^ol) were 
astonished at His doctrine,' or teaching ; ' for He taught them/ 
the multitudes, ' as one having authority, and not as the 

Par. 4. So Votaw, in article in trace of esoteric teaching. There is 

Hastings' Diet, of the Bible (extra vol.): no portion of the discourse which does 

' The sermon is not addressed ex- not pertain equally to all of Jesus's 

clusively or specifically to the newly followers, present and future.' 
appointed apostles. It contains no 

318 Sermon XVI 

Nor was it only those multitudes who were with Him on 
the mount, to whom He now taught the way of salvation ; but 
all the children of men ; the whole race of mankind , the 
children that were yet unborn ; all the generations to come, 
even to the end of the world, who should ever hear the words 
of this life. 

5. And this all men allow, with regard to some parts of 
the ensuing discourse. No man, for instance, denies that 
what is said of poverty of spirit relates to all mankind. But 
many have supposed, that other parts concerned only the 
Apostles, or the first Christians, or the ministers of Christ, 
and were never designed for the generality of men, who, con- 
sequently, have nothing at all to do with them. 

But may we not justly inquire, who told them this, that 
some parts of this discourse concerned only the Apostles, or 
the Christians of the apostolic age, or the ministers of Christ ? 
Bare assertions are not a sufficient proof to establish a point 
of so great importance. Has then our Lord Himself taught 
us, that some parts of His discourse do not concern all man- 
kind ? Without doubt, had it been so, He would have told 
us , He could not have omitted so necessary an information. 
But has He told us so ? Where ? In the discourse itself ? 
No , here is not the least intimation of it. Has He said so 
elsewhere ? in any other of His discourses ? Not one word so 
much as glancing this way can we find in anything He ever 
spoke, either to the multitudes, or to His disciples. Has any 
one of the Apostles, or other inspired writers, left such an 
instruction upon record ? No such thing. No assertion of 
this kind is to be found in all the oracles of God. Who then 
are the men who are so much wiser than God — wise so far 
above that is written ? 

6. Perhaps they will say, that the reason of the thing 
requires such a restriction to be made. If it does, it must be 
on one of these two accounts ; because, without such a restric- 
tion, the discourse would either be apparently absurd, or would 
contradict some other scripture. But this is not the case. It 
will plainly appear, when we come to examine the several 
particulars, that there is no absurdity at all in applying all 

Upon our Lord's Sermon on the Mount ' I 319 

which our Lord hath here delivered to all mankind. Neither 
will it infer any contradiction to anything else He has delivered, 
nor to any other scripture whatever. Nay, it will farther 
appear, that either all the parts of this discourse are to be 
applied to men in general, or no part , seeing they are all 
connected together, all joined as the stones in an arch, of which 
you cannot take one away, without destroying the whole 

7. We may, lastly, observe, how our Lord teaches here. 
And surely, as at all times, so particularly at this, He speaks 
' as never man spake.' Not as the holy men of old , although 
they also spoke ' as they were moved by the Holy Ghost.' Not 
as Peter, or James, or John, or Paul : they were indeed wise 
master-builders in His Church ; but still in this, in the degrees 
of heavenly wisdom, the servant is not as his Lord. No, nor 
even as Himself at any other time, or on any other occasion. 
It does not appear, that it was ever His design, at any other 
time or place, to lay down at once the whole plan of His 
religion , to give us a full prospect of Christianity , to describe 
at large the nature of that holiness without which no man shall 
see the Lord. Particular branches of this He has indeed de- 
scribed, on a thousand different occasions , but never, besides 
here, did He give, of set purpose, a general view of the whole. 
Nay, we have nothing else of this kind in all the Bible , unless 
one should except that short sketch of holiness delivered by 
God in those ten words or commandments to Moses, on mount 
Sinai. But even here how wide a difference is there between 
one and the other ! ' Even that which was made glorious had 
no glory in this respect, by reason of the glory that excelleth ' 
(2 Cor. iii. 10). 

8. Above all, with what amazing love does the Son of God 
here reveal His Father's will to man ! He does not bring us 
again ' to the mount that burned with fire, nor unto blackness, 
and darkness, and tempest.' He does not speak as when He 
' thundered out of heaven ' , when the Highest ' gave His 
thunder, hailstones, and coals of fire.' He now addresses us 
with His still, small voice, — ' Blessed,' or happy, ' are the poor 
in spirit.' Happy are the mourners ; the meek ; those that 


Sermon XVI 

hunger after righteousness ; the merciful , the pure in heart 
happy in the end, and in the way , happy in this life, and in 
life everlasting ! As if He had said, ' Who is he that lusteth 
to live, and would fain see good days ? Behold, I show you 
the thing which your soul longeth for ! See the way you have 
so long sought in vain ; the way of pleasantness ; the path to 
calm, joyous peace, to heaven below, and heaven above ! ' 

9. At the same time, with what authority does He teach ! 
Well might they say, ' Not as the Scribes.' Observe the 
manner (but it cannot be expressed in words), the air, with 
which He speaks ! Not as Moses, the servant of God ; not as 
Abraham, His friend ; not as any of the prophets ; nor as any 
of the sons of men. It is something more than human ; more 
than can agree to any created being. It speaks the Creator of 
all ! A God, a God appears ! Yea, f "UN, the Being of beings, 
Jehovah, the Self-existent, the Supreme, the God who is over 
all blessed for ever. 

10. This divine discourse, delivered in the most excellent 
method, every subsequent part illustrating those that precede, 
is commonly, and not improperly, divided into three principal 
branches : the first contained in the fifth, the second in the 
sixth, and the third in the seventh chapter. In the first, the 
sum of all true religion is laid down in eight particulars, which 
are explained, and guarded against the false glosses of man, in 
the following parts of the fifth chapter. In the second are 
rules for that right intention which we are to preserve in all 
our outward actions, unmixed with worldly desires, or anxious 

8. ' Who is he that lusteth ? ' &c. 
The Prayer-Book version of Ps. xxxiv. 
12. ' Lusteth ' is used in its old sense 
of desireth eagerly. 

9. ' Not as the Scribes.' The 
better reading is ' their Scribes.' 
There is no thought of Moses or the 
Prophets ; the Scribes of our Lord's 
time are referred to, and the point is 
that they always rested on prece- 
dent and authority, whereas our 
Lord said ' I say unto you,' as having 
Himself authority to speak. 

10. Votaw's analysis is as follows : 

Theme : The Ideal Life, or the True Righteous- 

A. The ideal life described as to— 

[a) its characteristics, v. 1-12. 
{b) its mission, v. 13-16. 

B. Its relation to the earlier Hebrew ideal, 

v. 17-20. 

C Its outworkings. 

(a) in deeds and motives, v. 21-48. 

(b) in real religious worship, vi. 1-18. 

(c) in trust and self-devotion, vi. 19-34- 

(d) in treatment of others, vii. 1-12. 
D. The duty of Living the Ideal Life, vn. 


Upon our Lord's Sermon on the Mount : I 321 

cares for even the necessaries of life. In the third are cautions 
against the main hindrances of religion, closed with an appli- 
cation of the whole. 

1. 1. Our Lord first lays down the sum of all true religion 
in eight particulars, which He explains and guards against the 
false glosses of men, to the end of the fifth chapter. 

Some have supposed that He designed, in these, to point out 
the several stages of the Christian course — the steps which a 
Christian successively takes in his journey to the promised 
land ; others, that all the particulars here set down belong at 
all times to every Christian. And why may we not allow both 
the one and the other ? What inconsistency is there between 
them ? It is undoubtedly true, that both poverty of spirit, and 
every other temper which is here mentioned, are at all times 
found, in a greater or less degree, in every real Christian. 
And it is equally true, that real Christianity always begins in 
poverty of spirit, and goes on in the order here set down, 
till the ' man of God is made perfect.' We begin at the lowest 
of these gifts of God ; yet so as not to relinquish this, when 
we are called of God to come up higher ; but ' whereunto we 
have already attained, we hold fast,' while we press on to what 
is yet before, to the highest blessings of God in Christ Jesus. 

2. The foundation of all is poverty of spirit : here, there- 
fore, our Lord begins : ' Blessed,' saith He, ' are the poor in 
spirit , for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.' 

It may not improbably be supposed, that our Lord looked 
on those who were round about Him, and, observing that not 

I. 1. The number of the Beati- 
tudes is apparently eight ; though 
some commentators would reduce 
them to seven (the sacred number), 
either by not counting the last, as 
not being co-ordinate in form with 
the rest, or by omitting the third, as 
a gloss introduced from Ps. xxxvii. 
11. It is generally agreed that the 
first four are of a negative character, 
and express the state of spiritual 
desire which leads to the possession 

I — 21 

of the Kingdom ; the second four 
are positive, and describe the char- 
acter and treatment of members of 
the Kingdom. Tholuck agrees with 
Wesley that there is an order of pro- 
gression, but that it is not of such 
a nature that each stage excludes 
those which precede it. 

2. In St. Luke the Beatitudes and 
the Woes are all personally ex- 
pressed : ' Blessed are ye poor men, ' 
&c. In the crowd on the hillside 


Sermon XVI 

many rich were there, but rather the poor of the world, took 
occasion from thence to make a transition from temporal to 
spiritual things. ' Blessed/ saith He (or happy — so the word 
should be rendered, both in this and the following verses), 
' are the poor in spirit.' He does not say, they that are poor 
as to outward circumstances, it being not impossible that some 
of these may be as far from happiness as a monarch upon his 
throne , but ' the poor in spirit ' — they who, whatever their 
outward circumstances are, have that disposition of heart 
which is the first step to all real, substantial happiness, either 
in this world, or that which is to come. 

3. Some have judged, that by the poor in spirit here, are 
meant those who love poverty ; those who are free from covet- 
ousness, from the love of money ; who fear, rather than desire, 
riches. Perhaps they have been induced so to judge, by 
wholly confining their thoughts to the very term , or by con- 
sidering that weighty observation of St. Paul, that ' the love 
of money is the root of all evil.' And hence many have wholly 
divested themselves, not only of riches, but of all worldly goods. 
Hence also the vows of voluntary poverty seem to have arisen 
in the Romish Church , it being supposed that so eminent a 
degree of this fundamental grace must be a large step toward 
the ' kingdom of heaven.' 

But these do not seem to have observed, first, that the 
expression of St. Paul must be understood with some restric- 
tion ; otherwise it is not true ; for the love of money is not 

the majority were doubtless poor, 
hard-working folk ; but there might 
well be amongst them some of the 
Pharisees, who stood apart with a 
certain scorn. But St. Matthew saw 
that the blessedness of which our 
Lord spoke was not the result of 
economic poverty, but of the sense 
of spiritual need which brought 
these people round our Saviour ; 
and his addition of ' in spirit ' guards 
the phrase against the misunder- 
standing that would find in it a com- 
mendation of economic poverty as 

in itself blessed. It is true that this 
spirit far more often goes with 
poverty than with riches — ' God 
hath chosen the poor in this world 
rich in faith ' ; but it is the spiritual 
temper, not the economic condition, 
that makes for happiness or wretched- 

3. What St. Paul does say is that 
the love of money is a root of all 
evils ; not, as Wesley says, the root 
of very many evils. It is one root 
of all sorts of evil, but not the only 

Upon our Lord's Sermon on the Mount ; / 323 

the root, the sole root, of all evil. There are a thousand other 
roots of evil in the world, as sad experience daily shows. His 
meaning can only be, it is the root of very many evils ; perhaps 
of more than any single vice besides. Secondly, that this 
sense of the expression, ' poor in spirit,' will by no means 
suit our Lord's present design, which is to lay a general founda- 
tion whereon the whole fabric of Christianity may be built , 
a design which would be in no wise answered by guarding 
against one particular vice : so that, if even this were supposed 
to be one part of His meaning, it could not possibly be the 
whole. Thirdly, that it cannot be supposed to be any part of 
His meaning, unless we charge Him with manifest tautology ; 
seeing, if poverty of spirit were only freedom from covetousness, 
from the love of money, or the desire of riches, it would coincide 
with what He afterwards mentions, it would be only a branch 
of purity of heart. 

4. Who then are ' the poor in spirit ' ? Without question, 
the humble , they who know themselves , who are convinced 
of sin ; those to whom God hath given that first repentance, 
which is previous to faith in Christ. 

One of these can no longer say, ' I am rich, and increased 
in goods, and have need of nothing ' , as now knowing, that 
he is ' wretched, and poor, and miserable, and blind, and 
naked.' He is convinced that he is spiritually poor indeed, 
having no spiritual good abiding in him. ' In me,' saith 
he, ' dwelleth no good thing,' but whatsoever is evil and 
abominable. He has a deep sense of the loathsome leprosy of 
sin, which he brought with him from his mother's womb, which 
overspreads his whole soul, and totally corrupts every power 
and faculty thereof. He sees more and more of the evil tem- 
pers which spring from that evil root : the pride and haughti- 
ness of spirit, the constant bias to think of himself more highly 
than he ought to think , the vanity, the thirst after the esteem 
or honour that cometh from men , the hatred or envy, the 
jealousy or revenge, the anger, malice, or bitterness ; the 
inbred enmity both against God and man, which appears in 
ten thousand shapes , the love of the world, the self-will, the 
foolish and hurtful desires, which cleave to his inmost soul. He 

324 Sermon XVI 

is conscious how deeply he has offended by his tongue ; if not 
by profane, immodest, untrue, or unkind words, yet by dis- 
course which was not ' good to the use of edifying,' not ' meet 
to minister grace to the hearers,' which, consequently, was all 
corrupt in God's account, and grievous to His Holy Spirit. 
His evil works are now likewise ever in his sight : if he tells 
them, they are more than he is able to express. He may 
as well think to number the drops of rain, the sands of the sea, 
or the days of eternity. 

5. His guilt is now also before his face : he knows the punish- 
ment he has deserved, were it only on account of his carnal 
mind, the entire, universal corruption of his nature how 
much more, on account of all his evil desires and thoughts, of 
all his sinful words and actions ! He cannot doubt for a 
moment, but the least of these deserves the damnation of hell— 
' the worm that dieth not, and the fire that never shall be 
quenched.' Above all, the guilt of ' not believing on the name 
of the only-begotten Son of God ' lies heavy upon him. How, 
saith he, shall I escape, who ' neglect so great salvation ' ! 'He 
that believeth not is condemned already,' and ' the wrath of 
God abideth on him.' 

6. But what shall he give in exchange for his soul, which is 
forfeited to the just vengeance of God ? ' Wherewithal shall 
he come before the Lord ? ' How shall he pay Him that he 
oweth ? Were he from this moment to perform the most 
perfect obedience to every command of God, this would make 
no amends for a single sin, for any one act of past disobedience ; 
seeing he owes God all the service he is able to perform, from 
this moment to all eternity could he pay this, it would make 
no manner of amends for what he ought to have done before. 
He sees himself therefore utterly helpless with regard to atoning 
for his past sins , utterly unable to make any amends to God, 
to pay any ransom for his own soul. 

But if God would forgive him all that is past, on this one 
condition, that he should sin no more ; that for the time to 

4. ' Tells ' is used in its old sense Every shepherd tells his tale 

of ' counts ' ; as in Milton's L'A llegro, Under the hawthom to the dale ' 

6 7 : That is, reckons up his flock. 

Upon our Lord's Sermon on the Mount : I 325 

come he should entirely and constantly obey all His commands , 
he well knows that this would profit him nothing, being a 
condition he could never perform. He knows and feels that he 
is not able to obey even the outward commands of God , seeing 
these cannot be obeyed while his heart remains in its natural 
sinfulness and corruption , inasmuch as an evil tree cannot 
bring forth good fruit. But he cannot cleanse a sinful heart : 
with men this is impossible : so that he is utterly at a loss even 
how to begin walking in the path of God's commandments. 
He knows not how to get one step forward in the way. En- 
compassed with sin, and sorrow, and fear, and finding no way 
to escape, he can only cry out, ' Lord, save, or I perish ! ' 

7. Poverty of spirit then, as it implies the first step we take 
in running the race which is set before us, is a just sense of our 
inward and outward sins, and of our guilt and helplessness. 
This some have monstrously styled ' the virtue of humility ' , 
thus teaching us to be proud of knowing we deserve damnation ! 
But our Lord's expression is quite of another kind , conveying 
no idea to the hearer, but that of mere want, of naked sin, 
of helpless guilt and misery. 

8. The great apostle, where he endeavours to bring sinners 
to God, speaks in a manner just answerable to this. ' The 
wrath of God,' saith he, 'is revealed from heaven against all 
ungodliness and unrighteousness of men ' (Rom. i. 18, &c.) ; 
a charge which he immediately fixes on the heathen world, 
and thereby proves they are under the wrath of God. He 
next shows that the Jews were no better than they, and were 
therefore under the same condemnation , and all this, not in 
order to their attaining ' the noble virtue of humility,' but 

7. It is no more ' monstrous ' to 
call humility a virtue than to call 
pride a vice. But Wesley was ter- 
ribly afraid of suggesting that 
humility was in any degree a meri- 
torious cause of salvation ; hence 
he will not allow that it is a virtue 
at all. He modified in later life this 
extreme view of the worthlessness 
of all works and tempers before jus- 

tification ; in the Minutes, 1770, he 
says : ' As to merit itself, of which we 
have been so dreadfully afraid ; we 
are rewarded according to our works, 
yea, because of our works. How does 
this differ from for the sake of our 
works ? And how differs this from 
secundum merita operum — as our 
works deserve ? Can you split this 
hair ? I doubt I cannot.' 


Sermon XVI 

' that every mouth might be stopped, and all the world become 
guilty before God.' 

He proceeds to show, that they were helpless as well as 
guilty , which is the plain purport of all those expressions : 
'Therefore by the deeds of the law there shall no flesh be 
justified ' ; ' But now the righteousness of God, which is by 
faith of Jesus Christ, without the law, is manifested ' ; 'We 
conclude, that a man is justified by faith, without the deeds of 
the law,' — expressions all tending to the same point, even to 
' hide pride from man ' ; to humble him to the dust, without 
teaching him to reflect upon his humility as a virtue ; to 
inspire him with that full, piercing conviction of his utter 
sinfulness, guilt, and helplessness, which casts the sinner, 
stripped of all, lost and undone, on his strong Helper, Jesus 
Christ the righteous. 

9. One cannot but observe here, that Christianity begins 
just where heathen morality ends ; poverty of spirit, con- 
viction of sin, the renouncing ourselves, the not having our 
own righteousness (the very first point in the religion of Jesus 
Christ), leaving all pagan religion behind. This was ever hid 
from the wise men of this world , insomuch that the whole 
Roman language, even with all the improvements of the 
Augustan age, does not afford so much as a name for humility 
(the word from whence we borrow this, as is well known, bear- 
ing in Latin a quite different meaning) ; no, nor was one 
found in all the copious language of Greece, till it was made by 
the great apostle. 

10. O that we may feel what they were not able to express ! 
Sinner, awake ! Know thyself ! Know and feel, that thou 

9. This observation is just. Hutni- 
litas in classical Latin means always 
meanness, baseness, abjectness ; it is 
not till we come to Lactantius, a 
Christian writer of the third cen- 
tury a.d., that we find it in the 
sense of humility. Similarly in 
Greek raireivds and its compounds 
always express mean-spiritedness, 
contemptibleness ; and the noun 

TaTT€Lvo(ppo<r6vrj is first found in St. 
Paul's address at Miletus (Acts xx. 
19) ; and was certainly a Christian 
coinage, possibly enough, as Wesley 
suggests, his own. Aristotle (Ethica 
Nicom. iv. 8) makes high-minded- 
ness the virtuous mean between 
vanity and little-mindedness, which 
are both vices. 

Upon our Lord's Sermon on the Mount : I 327 

wert ' shapen in wickedness,' and that ' in sin did thy mother 
conceive thee ' ; and that thou thyself hast been heaping 
sin upon sin, ever since thou couldest discern good from evil ! 
Sink under the mighty hand of God, as guilty of death eternal t 
and cast off, renounce, abhor, all imagination of ever being 
able to help thyself ! Be it all thy hope to be washed in His 
blood, and renewed by His almighty Spirit, who Himself ' bare 
all our sins in His own body on the tree ' ! So shalt thou 
witness, ' Happy are the poor in spirit : for theirs is the 
kingdom of heaven.' 

11. This is that kingdom of heaven, or of God, which is 
within us ; even ' righteousness, and peace, and joy in the 
Holy Ghost.' And what is ' righteousness,' but the life of 
God in the soul ; the mind which was in Christ Jesus , the 
image of God stamped upon the heart, now renewed after the 
likeness of Him that created it ? What is it but the love of 
God, because He first loved us, and the love of all mankind for 
His sake ? 

And what is this ' peace,' the peace of God, but that calm 
serenity of soul, that sweet repose in the blood of Jesus, which 
leaves no doubt of our acceptance in Him ; which excludes all 
fear, but the loving, filial fear of offending our Father which 
is in heaven ? 

This inward kingdom implies also ' joy in the Holy Ghost ' , 
who seals upon our hearts ' the redemption which is in Jesus,' 
the righteousness of Christ imputed to us ' for the remission 
of the sins that are past ' , who giveth us now ' the earnest of 
our inheritance,' of the crown which the Lord, the righteous 
Judge, will give at that day. And well may this be termed 
' the kingdom of heaven ' , seeing it is heaven already opened 
in the soul : the first springing up of those rivers of pleasure 
which flow at God's right hand for evermore. 

11. Compare Sermon VII, where Remarks on Hill's Farrago Double- 

this paragraph is elaborated. Distilled (1773), ' That phrase — the 

In Sermon XLIX, 20, Wesley asks imputed righteousness of Christ — I 

liberty to use the phrase ' imputed never did use.' He had forgotten 

righteousness,' though he admits he this passage, 
does not like it. But he says in his 

328 Sermon XVI 

12. ' Theirs is the kingdom of heaven.' Whosoever thou 
art, to whom God hath given to be ' poor in spirit,' to feel 
thyself lost, thou hast a right thereto, through the gracious 
promise of Him who cannot lie. It is purchased for thee by 
the blood of the Lamb. It is very nigh thou art on the brink 
of heaven ! Another step, and thou enterest into the kingdom 
of righteousness, and peace, and joy ! Art thou all sin ?— 
' Behold the Lamb of God, who taketh away the sin of the 
world ! ' All unholy ? — see thy ' Advocate with the Father, 
Jesus Christ the righteous ! ' Art thou unable to atone for 
the least of thy sins ? — ' He is the propitiation for ' all thy 
' sins.' Now believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and all thy 
sins are blotted out ! Art thou totally unclean in soul and 
body ? — here is the ' fountain for sin and uncleanness ! ' 
' Arise, and wash away thy sins ! ' Stagger no more at the 
promise through unbelief ! Give glory to God ! Dare to 
believe ! Now cry out, from the ground of thy heart,— 

Yes, I yield, I yield at last, 

Listen to Thy speaking blood ; 
Me, with all my sins, I cast 

On my atoning God. 

13. Then thou learnest of Him to be 'lowly of heart.' 
And this is the true, genuine, Christian humility, which flows 
from a sense of the love of God, reconciled to us in Christ 
Jesus. Poverty of spirit, in this meaning of the word, begins 
where a sense of guilt and of the wrath of God ends ; and is 
a continual sense of our total dependence on Him, for every 
good thought, or word, or work ; of our utter inability to all 
good, unless He ' water us every moment ' , and an abhorrence 
of the praise of men, knowing that all praise is due unto God 
only. With this is joined a loving shame, a tender humilia- 
tion before God, even for the sins which we know He hath 
forgiven us, and for the sin which still remaineth in our hearts, 

12. The quotation is from a hymn Lord.' It is in the Methodist Hymn- 
by Charles Wesley, first published in Book, No. 341. 

Hymns and Sacred Poems, 1742, be- 13. Compare Sermon XLVI, on 

ginning, ' I w in hearken what the Sin in Believers. 

Upon our Lord's Sermon on the Mount : I 329 

although we know it is not imputed to our condemnation. 
Nevertheless, the conviction we feel of inbred sin is deeper 
and deeper every day. The more we grow in grace, the more 
do we see of the desperate wickedness of our heart. The more 
we advance in the knowledge and love of God, through our 
Lord Jesus Christ (as great a mystery as this may appear to 
those who know not the power of God unto salvation), the more 
do we discern of our alienation from God, of the enmity that 
is in our carnal mind, and the necessity of our being entirely 
renewed in righteousness and true holiness. 

II. 1. It is true, he has scarce any conception of this who 
now begins to know the inward kingdom of heaven. ' In his 
prosperity he saith, I shall never be moved ; Thou, Lord, hast 
made my hill so strong.' Sin is so utterly bruised beneath 
his feet, that he can scarce believe it remaineth in him. Even 
temptation is silenced, and speaks not again it cannot 
approach, but stands afar off. He is borne aloft in the chariots 
of joy and love : he soars ' as upon the wings of an eagle.' 
But our Lord well knew that this triumphant state does not 
often continue long : He therefore presently subjoins, ' Blessed 
are they that mourn ; for they shall be comforted.' 

2. Not that we can imagine this promise belongs to those 
who mourn only on some worldly account , who are in sorrow 
and heaviness merely on account of some worldly trouble or 
disappointment, such as the loss of their reputation or friends, 
or the impairing of their fortune. As little title to it have they 
who are afflicting themselves, through fear of some temporal 
evil , or who pine away with anxious care, or that desire of 
earthly things which ' maketh the heart sick.' Let us not 
think these ' shall receive anything from the Lord ' : He is 
not in all their thoughts. Therefore it is that they thus ' walk 
in a vain shadow ; and disquiet themselves in vain.' ' And this 
shall ye have of Mine hand.,' saith the Lord, ' ye shall lie down 
in sorrow.' 

3. The mourners of whom our Lord here speaks, are those 

II. 3. That this was Wesley's own and he seems to have regarded it as 
experience we have already seen ; normal, or at all events, usual. No 


Sermon XVI 

that mourn on quite another account : they that mourn after 
God ; after Him in whom they did ' rejoice with joy unspeak- 
able/ when He gave them to ' taste the good,' the pardoning 
' word, and the powers of the world to come.' But He now 
' hides His face and they are troubled ' ; they cannot see Him 
through the dark cloud. But they see temptation and sin, 
which they fondly supposed were gone never to return, arising 
again, following after them amain, and holding them in on 
every side. It is not strange if their soul is now disquieted 
within them, and trouble and heaviness take hold upon them. 
Nor will their great enemy fail to improve the occasion : to 
ask, ' Where is now thy God ? Where is now the blessedness 
whereof thou spakest ? the beginning of the kingdom of 
heaven ? Yea, hath God said, " Thy sins are forgiven thee ? " 
Surely God hath not said it. It was only a dream, a mere 
delusion, a creature of thy own imagination. If thy sins are 
forgiven, why art thou thus ? Can a pardoned sinner be thus 
unholy ? ' And if then, instead of immediately crying to 
God, they reason with him that is wiser than they, they will 
be in heaviness indeed, in sorrow of heart, in anguish not to 
be expressed. Nay, even when God shines again upon the 
soul, and takes away all doubt of His past mercy, still he that 
is weak in faith may be tempted and troubled on account of 
what is to come ; especially when inward sin revives, and 

doubt it is very common in the type 
of conversion which he knew best ; 
after the intense excitement of the 
deliverance from sin, an emotional 
reaction is almost inevitable. Ser- 
mons XL and XLI deal with this 
subject. In the former of these it 
is recognized that one cause of this 
reaction is ignorance ; and that is 
very true. The more entirely emo- 
tional conversion has been, the more 
likely it is that a period of depres- 
sion will follow it ; the larger the 
part that reason has played, the 
more stable will the convert's ex- 
perience be. It seems to be sug- 
gested here that God may deliber- 

ately ' hide His face ' from the 
believer for his trial ; but in Ser- 
mon XL this is flatly denied : ' He 
never deserts us, as some speak ; it 
is we only that desert Him.' Tho- 
luck follows Wesley in regarding 
this mourning as the penitence of 
the believer for his sins after con- 
version ; but it is surely not right 
to limit it to this form of sorrow : 

In every sorrow of the heart 
Eternal mercy bears a part. 

Votaw would include in it ' all those 
experiences of life which bring sad- 
ness and sorrow to men.' 

The first quotation is from Dr. 
John Donne's Hymn to God the 

Upon our Lord's Sermon on the Mount : I 331 

thrusts sore at him that he may fall. Then may he again cry 

out, — 

I have a sin of fear, that when I've spun 

My last thread, I shall perish on the shore ! — 

lest I should make shipwreck of the faith, and my last state be 
worse than the first, — 

Lest all my bread of life should fail, 
And I sink down unchanged to hell ! 

4. Sure it is, that this ' affliction,' for the present, ' is not 
joyous, but grievous ; nevertheless, afterward it bringeth forth 
peaceable fruit unto them that are exercised thereby.' Blessed, 
therefore, are they that thus mourn, if they ' tarry the Lord's 
leisure,' and suffer not themselves to be turned out of the 
way, by the miserable comforters of the world ; if they reso- 
lutely reject all the comforts of sin, of folly, and vanity ; all 
the idle diversions and amusements of the world , all the 
pleasures which ' perish in the using,' and which only tend 
to benumb and stupefy the soul, that it may neither be sensible 
of itself nor God. Blessed are they who ' follow on to know 
the Lord,' and steadily refuse all other comfort. They shall 
be comforted by the consolations of His Spirit , by a fresh 
manifestation of His love ; by such a witness of His accepting 
them in the Beloved, as shall never more be taken away from 
them. This ' full assurance of faith ' swallows up all doubt, 
as well as all tormenting fear ; God now giving them a sure 
hope of an enduring substance, and ' strong consolation through 
grace.' Without disputing whether it be possible for any of 
those to ' fall away, who were once enlightened, and made 
partakers of the Holy Ghost,' it suffices them to say, by the 
power now resting upon them, ' Who shall separate us from 
the love of Christ ? . I am persuaded, that neither death, 

Father ; it is quoted in the paper 3, Part II of C. Wesley's hymn 

written at the end of the Sixth ' Groaning for Redemption,' in 

Savannah Journal (Standard Edi- Hymns and Sacred Poems, 1742 

tion, i. 418) as expressing Wesley's (Osborn, ii. p. 159). Verses 6 and 7 

own experience at that time. The of Part IV are Hymn 477 in the 

second is the last two lines of verse Methodist Hymn-Book. 

332 Sermon XVI 

nor life, nor things present, nor things to come, nor height, nor 
depth, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which 
is in Christ Jesus our Lord ' (Rom. viii. 35-39) • 

5. This whole process, both of mourning for an absent God, 
and recovering the joy of His countenance, seems to be 
shadowed out in what our Lord spoke to His Apostles, the 
night before His passion : ' Do ye inquire of that I said, A 
little while, and ye shall not see Me and again, a little while 
and ye shall see Me ? Verily, verily, I say unto you, That ye 
shall weep and lament ' ; namely, when ye do not see Me ; 
' but the world shall rejoice ' , shall triumph over you, as 
though your hope were now come to an end. ' And ye shall 
be sorrowful,' through doubt, through fear, through tempta- 
tion, through vehement desire ; ' but your sorrow shall be 
turned into joy,' by the return of Him whom your soul loveth, 
' A woman when she is in travail hath sorrow, because her hour 
is come but as soon as she is delivered of the child, she 
remembereth no more the anguish, for joy that a man is born 
into the world. And ye now have sorrow ' : ye mourn, and 
cannot be comforted : ' but I will see you again, and your heart 
shall rejoice,' with calm inward joy, ' and your joy no man 
taketh from you ' (John xvi. 19-22). 

6. But although this mourning is at an end, is lost in holy 
joy, by the return of the Comforter, yet is there another, and 
a blessed mourning it is, which abides in the children of God- 
They still mourn for the sins and miseries of mankind : they 
' weep with them that weep.' They weep for them that weep 
not for themselves, for the sinners against their own souls. 
They mourn for the weakness and unfaithfulness of those that 
are, in some measure, saved from their sins. ' Who is weak, 
and they are not weak ? Who is offended, and they burn 
not ? ' They are grieved for the dishonour continually done 
to the Majesty of heaven and earth. At all times they have 
an awful sense of this, which brings a deep seriousness upon 
their spirits , a seriousness which is not a little increased, 
since the eyes of their understanding were opened, by their 

5. ' Shadowed ' : used in its old sense of pictured. 

Upon our Lord's Sermon on the Mount : I 333 

continually seeing the vast ocean of eternity, without a bottom 
or a shore, which has already swallowed up millions of millions 
of men, and is gaping to devour them that yet remain. They 
see here the house of God eternal in the heavens ; there, hell 
and destruction without a covering , and thence feel the 
importance of every moment, which just appears, and is gone 
for ever ! 

7. But all this wisdom of God is foolishness with the world. 
The whole affair of mourning and poverty of spirit is with them 
stupidity and dullness. Nay, it is well if they pass so favour- 
able a judgement upon it ; if they do not vote it to be mere 
moping and melancholy, if not downright lunacy and distrac- 
tion. And it is no wonder at all, that this judgement should 
be passed by those who know not God. Suppose, as two 
persons were walking together, one should suddenly stop, 
and with the strongest signs of fear and amazement, cry out; 
' On what a precipice do we stand ! See, we are on the point 
of being dashed in pieces ! Another step, and we shall fall into 
that huge abyss ! Stop ! I will not go on for all the world ! ' — 
when the other, who seemed, to himself at least, equally sharp- 
sighted, looked forward and saw nothing of all this , what 
would he think of his companion, but that he was beside him- 
self ; that his head was out of order ; that much religion (if 
he was not guilty of ' much learning ') had certainly made him 
mad ! 

8. But let not the children of God, ' the mourners in Sion,' 
be moved by any of these things. Ye, whose eyes are enlight- 
ened, be not troubled by those who walk on still in darkness^ 
Ye do not walk on in a vain shadow : God and eternity are 
real things. Heaven and hell are in very deed open before you , 
and ye are on the edge of the great gulf. It has already 
swallowed up more than words can express, nations, and 
kindreds, and peoples, and tongues , and still yawns to devour, 
whether they see it or no, the giddy, miserable children of 
men. O cry aloud ! Spare not ! Lift up your voice to Him 
who grasps both time and eternity, both for yourselves and 
your brethren, that ye may be counted worthy to escape the 
destruction that cometh as a whirlwind ! that ye may be 

334 Sermon XVI 

brought safe through all the waves and storms, into the haven 
where you would be ! Weep for yourselves, till He wipes 
away the tears from your eyes. And even then, weep for the 
miseries that come upon the earth, till the Lord of all shall 
put a period to misery and sin, shall wipe away the tears from 
all faces, and ' the knowledge of the Lord shall cover the earth, 
as the waters cover the sea/ 



On October 19, 1739, Wesley was at Cardiff, and says : ' At six almost 
the whole town (I was informed) came together, to whom I explained 
the six last Beatitudes ; but my heart was so enlarged I knew not 
how to give over, so that we continued three hours.' Matt. v. 6 was 
his text at Spitalfields on December 30, 1760. 

Blessed are the meek : for they shall inherit the earth. 

Blessed are they which do hunger and thirst after righteousness : for they 

shall be filled. 
Blessed are the merciful : for they shall obtain mercy. 

— Matt. v. 5-7. 

1. i. When ' the winter is past,' when ' the time of singing 
is come, and the voice of the turtle is heard in the land ' ; 
when He that comforts the mourners is now returned, ' that 
He may abide with them for ever ' ; when, at the brightness 
of His presence, the clouds disperse, the dark clouds of doubt 
and uncertainty, the storms of fear flee away, the waves of 
sorrow subside, and their spirit again rejoiceth in God their 
Saviour ; then is it that* this word is eminently fulfilled ; then 
those whom He hath comforted can bear witness, ' Blessed,' 
or happy, ' are the meek ; for they shall inherit the earth.' 

2. But who are ' the meek ' ? Not those who grieve at 
nothing, because they know nothing ; who are not discom- 
posed at the evils that occur, because they discern not evil 
from good. Not those who are sheltered from the shocks 
of life by a stupid insensibility , who have, either by nature 
or art, the virtue of stocks and stones, and resent nothing, 


336 Sermon XVII 

because they feel nothing. Brute philosophers are wholly 
unconcerned in this matter. Apathy is as far from meekness 
as from humanity. So that one would not easily conceive 
how any Christians of the purer ages, especially any of the 
Fathers of the Church, could confound these, and mistake one 
of the foulest errors of Heathenism for a branch of true 

3. Nor does Christian meekness imply, the being without 
zeal for God, any more than it does ignorance or insensibility. 
No ; it keeps clear of every extreme, whether in excess or 
defect. It does not destroy but balance the affections, which 
the God of nature never designed should be rooted out by grace, 
but only brought and kept under due regulations. It poises 
the mind aright. It holds an even scale, with regard to anger, 
and sorrow, and fear , preserving the mean in every circum- 
stance of life, and not declining either to the right hand or the 

4. Meekness, therefore, seems properly to relate to our- 
selves : but it may be referred either to God or our neighbour. 

I. Par. 2. ' Brute philosophers ' ; noster ' (' Seneca, who is often one 

i.e. the Stoics, so called from their of ourselves ') ; and Jerome, Adv. 

affectation of insensibility. In the Jovin. i. 49, calls him without quali- 

Oxford Dictionary a quotation is fication ' noster Seneca.' The system 

given from J. Pope (ante 1744) : which produced such men as Cato, 

Seneca, Epictetus, and Marcus 

The brute philosopher, who ne'er has proved a„v -uj. .. t, j. j. j 

-,. t f . t \ . , , * Aurehus ought not to be treated 

The joy of loving or of being loved. ° 

disrespectfully, although its denial of 

' Apathy ' : insensibility to plea- a personal God, its lack of a sense 

sure and pain. Lewes, in Hist. of sin, its haughty exclusiveness and 

Philoso. i. 260, says : ' Apathy was want of sympathy, and its lack of 

considered by the Stoics as the faith in immortality, made it prac- 

highest condition of humanity.' tically ineffective for the help of the 

Pope, in Essay on Man, ii. 91 (1732), world. The student should read 

has — the dissertation on St. Paul and 

T , A 1L liri . ,_ Seneca in Lightfoot's Philippians. 

In lazy Apathy let Stoics boast _, . , , 

Their virtue fixed. 3- This statement, and the corre- 
sponding one below in section 5, 

To brand Stoicism as ' one of the that none of the passions are de- 

foulest errors of heathenism ' is a signed to be rooted out, will need 

bit of controversial abuse, and un- to be remembered when we come to 

worthy of a scholar like Wesley. the sermon on Christian Perfection. 

Tertullian, De Anima, 20, speaks of 4. So Votawsays: ' The Old Testa- 

the Stoic Seneca as ' Seneca saepe ment conception of meekness seems 

U-pon our Lord's Sermon on the Mount : II 337 

When this due composure of mind has reference to God, 
it is usually termed ' resignation ' , a calm acquiescence in 
whatsoever is His will concerning us, even though it may 
not be pleasing to nature ; saying continually, ' It is the 
Lord ; let Him do what seemeth Him good.' When we 
consider it more strictly with regard to ourselves, we style it 
' patience ' or ' contentedness.' When it is exerted toward 
other men, then it is ' mildness ' to the good, and ' gentleness ' 
to the evil. 

5. They who are truly meek can clearly discern what is 
evil ; and they can also suffer it. They are sensible of every- 
thing of this kind, but still, meekness holds the reins. They 
are exceeding ' zealous for the Lord of hosts ' , but their zeal 
is always guided by knowledge, and tempered, in every thought, 
and word, and work, with the love of man, as well as the love 
of God. They do not desire to extinguish any of the passions 
which God has for wise ends implanted in their nature ; but 
they have the mastery of all : they hold them all in subjection, 
and employ them only in subservience to those ends. And 
thus even the harsher and more unpleasing passions are appli- 
cable to the noblest purposes , even hatred, anger, and fear, 
when engaged against sin, and regulated by faith and love, are 
as walls and bulwarks to the soul, so that the wicked one 
cannot approach to hurt it. 

6. It is evident, this divine temper is not only to abide but 
to increase in us day by day. Occasions of exercising, and 
thereby increasing it, will never be wanting while we remain 
upon earth. ' We have need of patience, that after we have 
done ' and suffered ' the will of God, we may receive the pro- 
mise.' We have need of resignation, that we may in all cir- 
cumstances say, ' Not as I will, but as Thou wilt.' And we 
have need of ' gentleness toward all men ' ; but especially 
toward the evil and unthankful : otherwise we shall be over- 
come of evil, instead of overcoming evil with good. 

to concern a man's attitude towards gentleness, forgiveness, and self- 
God rather than towards other men. abnegation in a man's relations to 

A necessary outworking of this his fellow men.' 
meekness towards God is a quality of 

I — 22 

338 Sermon XVII 

7. Nor does meekness restrain only the outward act, as the 
Scribes and Pharisees taught of old, and the miserable teachers 
who are not taught of God will not fail to do in all ages. Our 
Lord guards against this, and shows the true extent of it, in 
the following words : ' Ye have heard that it was said by them 
of old time, Thou shalt not kill ; and whosoever shall kill shall 
be in danger of the judgement ' (Matt. v. 21, &c.) ' But I say 
unto you, That whosoever is angry with his brother without 
a cause shall be in danger of the judgement : and whosoever 
shall say to his brother, Raca, shall be in danger of the 
council but whosoever shall say, Thou fool, shall be in danger 
of hell-fire.' 

8. Our Lord here ranks under the head of murder, even 
that anger which goes no farther than the heart ; which does 
not show itself by any outward unkindness, no, not so much 
as a passionate word. ' Whosoever is angry with his brother,' 
with any man living, seeing we are all brethren ; whosoever 
feels any unkindness in his heart, any temper contrary to love , 
whosoever is angry without a cause, without a sufficient cause, 
or farther than that cause requires, ' shall be in danger of the 
judgement ' , evoxos €<ttcu ; shall, in that moment, be obnoxious 
to the righteous judgement of God. 

But would not one be inclined to prefer the reading of 
those copies which omit the word eUr), without a cause ? Is 
it not entirely superfluous ? For if anger at persons be a 
temper contrary to love, how can there be a cause, a sufficient 
cause for it, — any that will justify it in the sight of God ? 

Anger at sin we allow. In this sense we may be angry, 
and yet we sin not. In this sense our Lord Himself is once 
recorded to have been angry ' He looked round about upon 
them with anger, being grieved for the hardness of their hearts.' 

7. The use of the teaching of The better rendering is * to the 

verses 21-6 to illustrate this Beati- men of old time.' 

tude is admirable for practical pur- 8. The critics almost all agree 

poses, though it may be regarded with Wesley in omitting the words 

as exegetically unsound. Its real ' without a cause,' for which there 

object is to show the spiritual inter- is comparatively little documentary 

pretation which is to be put upon evidence, 
the old law in the Kingdom of God. 

Upon our Lord's Sermon on the Mount : II 339 

He was grieved at the sinners, and angry at the sin. And this 
is undoubtedly right before God. 

9. ' And whosoever shall say to his brother, Raca ' — whoso- 
ever shall give way to, anger, so as to utter any contemptuous 
word. It is observed by commentators, that Raca is a Syriac 
word, which properly signifies, empty, vain, foolish ; so that it 
is as inoffensive an expression as can well be used, toward one 
at whom we are displeased. And yet, whosoever shall use this, 
as our Lord assures us, ' shall be in danger of the council ' ; 
rather, shall be obnoxious thereto : he shall be liable to a 
severer sentence from the Judge of all the earth. 

' But whosoever shall say, Thou fool ' — whosoever shall so 
give place to the devil, as to break out into reviling, into 
designedly reproachful and contumelious language — ' shall be 
obnoxious to hell-fire ' ; shall, in that instant, be liable to the 
highest condemnation. It should be observed, that our Lord 
describes all these as obnoxious to capital punishment. The 
first to strangling, usually inflicted on those who were con- 
demned in one of the inferior courts ; the second, to stoning, 
which was frequently inflicted on those who were condemned by 
the great Council at Jerusalem ; the third, to burning alive, 

9. As the text stands, Wesley's 
interpretation is the only possible 
one ; the punishment in each case 
is death, but there is a difference 
of degree both in the courts and the 
form of the penalty. The chief 
difficulty is to see why it should be 
worse to call a man a fool in Greek 
than in Syriac ! for Raca was a 
common term of abuse, and not a 
mere meaningless exclamation. I 
strongly incline to Bacon's re- 
arrangement of the passage, thus : 

Ye have heard that it was said to the ancients, 
Thou shalt not kill, and whosoever killeth shall 
be amenable to judgement ; 

But I say unto you, Whosoever is angry with 
his brother shall be amenable to judgement. 

(Moreover it was said) Whosoever shall call 
bis brother Scoundrel shall be amenable to the 
court ; 

(But I say unto you) Whosoever calleth him 
Fool shall be amenable to the hell of fire. 

This gives a better parallelism, 
and avoids the difficulty of creating 
an unreal distinction between Raca 
and Fool. 

Gehenna, the valley of Hinnom, 
to the south-west of Jerusalem, was 
used as a dump for the refuse of the 
city, which was kept perpetually 
burning ; hence in the Rabbinical 
literature it was frequently used as 
the name for the place of punish- 
ment of the godless. It was one of 
the seven things created before the 
world, and its fire was sixty times 
hotter than ordinary fire. Our Lord 
uses the popular phrase in the sense 
in which His hearers would under- 
stand it — the punishment of the 
sinner in the world to come. Burn- 
ing alive was not practised by the 
Jews at all ; such barbarity was left 


Sermon XVII 

inflicted only on the highest offenders, in the ' valley 
sons of Hinnom ' ; Tal 'Ewofi, from which that w 
evidently taken which we translate ' hell/ 

10. And whereas men naturally imagine, that Go 
excuse their defect in some duties, for their exactness in c 
our Lord next takes care to cut off that vain, though co 
imagination. He shows, that it is impossible for any sir 
commute with God ; who will not accept one duty for ai 
nor take a part of obedience for the whole. He warns u 
the performing our duty to God will not excuse us frc 
duty to our neighbour , that works of piety, as they are 
will be so far from commending us to God, if we are w 
in charity, that, on the contrary, that want of charity wil 
all those works an abomination to the Lord. 

* Therefore, if thou bring thy gift to the altar, and 
rememberest that thy brother hath aught against the< 
account of thy unkind behaviour toward him, of thy 
him, ' Raca,' or, ' Thou fool ' — think not that thy gi 
atone for thy anger , or that it will find any acceptanc 
God, so long as thy conscience is defiled with the guilt 
repented sin. ' Leave there thy gift before the altar, 
thy way , first be reconciled to thy brother ' (at least 
that in thee lies toward being reconciled), ' and ther 
and offer thy gift ' (Matt. v. 23, 24). 

11. And let there be no delay in what so nearly cone 
thy soul. ' Agree with thine adversary quickly ' — now 
the spot , ' whiles thou art in the way with him '— i: 
possible, before he go out of thy sight ; ' lest at any ti: 
adversary deliver thee to the judge '—lest he appeal to G 
Judge of all , ' and the judge deliver thee to the office 

to the heathen, and to the Roman 
Catholic Church of later days. In 
the two cases in which it is appar- 
ently set down as a punishment 
(Lev. xx. 14 and xxi. 9), 'burned 
with fire probably means ' branded,' 
not ' burned alive.' 

11. The connexion of this passage 
with what has gone before is not 

very obvious. Apparently 
versary, or prosecutor, is t 
who has been abused, and 
going to bring an action ag{ 
abuser ; and the follower o 
is to seek to be reconciled ■# 
that judgement may not t 
against him, not only in t 
court, but in the court of Hi 

Upon our Lord's Sermon on the Mount : II 341 

Satan, the executioner of the wrath of God ; ' and thou be cast 
into prison ' — into hell, there to be reserved to the judgement 
of the great day. ' Verily I say unto thee, Thou shalt by no 
means come out thence, till thou hast paid the uttermost 
farthing.' But this it is impossible for thee ever to do seeing 
thou hast nothing to pay. Therefore, if thou art once in that 
prison, the smoke of thy torment must ' ascend up for ever 
and ever.' 

12. Meantime ' the meek shall inherit the earth.' Such 
is the foolishness of worldly wisdom ! The wise of the world 
had warned them again and again, that if they did not 
resent such treatment, if they would tamely suffer themselves 
to be thus abused, there would be no living for them upon 
earth , that they would never be able to procure the common 
necessaries of life, nor to keep even what they had , that they 
could expect no peace, no quiet possession, no enjoyment of 
anything. Most true, suppose there were no God in the 
world , or suppose He did not concern Himself with the chil- 
dren of men : but ' when God ariseth to judgement, and to 
help all the meek upon earth,' how doth He laugh all this 
heathen wisdom to scorn, and turn the ' fierceness of man to 
His praise ' ! He takes a peculiar care to provide them with 
all things needful for life and godliness , He secures to them 
the provision He hath made, in spite of the force, fraud, or 
malice of men ; and what He secures He gives them richly 
to enjoy. It is sweet to them, be it little or much. As in 
patience they possess their souls, so they truly possess what- 
ever God hath given them. They are always content, always 
pleased with what they have : it pleases them, because it pleases 
God : so that while their heart, their desire, their joy is in 
heaven, they may truly be said to ' inherit the earth.' 

13. But there seems to be a yet farther meaning in these 
words, even that they shall have a more eminent part in ' the 
new earth, wherein dwelleth righteousness ' , in that inherit- 
ance, a general description of which (and the particulars we shall 

13. Wesley did not trouble him- to Dr. Middleton (1749) in the words 
self much about the Millennium. of the passage from Revelation here 
He expresses his belief in a letter quoted. But in a letter to Mr. 


Sermon XVII 

know hereafter) St. John hath given in the twentieth chapter 
of the Revelation : ' And I saw an angel come down from 
heaven, . . . and he laid hold on the dragon, that old serpent, 
and bound him a thousand years. . . . And I saw the 
souls of them that were beheaded for the witness of Jesus, and 
for the Word of God, and of them which had not worshipped 
the beast, neither his image, neither had received his mark 
upon their foreheads, or in their hands , and they lived and 
reigned with Christ a thousand years. But the rest of the dead 
lived not again until the thousand years were finished. This 
is the first resurrection. Blessed and holy is he that hath part 
in the first resurrection : on such the second death hath no 
power, but they shall be priests of God and of Christ, and 
shall reign with Him a thousand years.' 

II. i. Our Lord has hitherto been more immediately 
employed in removing the hindrances of true religion : such is 
pride, the first grand hindrance of all religion, which is taken 
away by poverty of spirit ; levity and thoughtlessness, which 
prevent any religion from taking root in the soul, till they 
are removed by holy mourning such are anger, impatience, 
discontent, which are all healed by Christian meekness. And 
when once these hindrances are removed, these evil diseases of 
the soul, which were continually raising false cravings therein, 
and filling it with sickly appetites, the native appetite of 
a heaven-born spirit returns , it hungers and thirsts after 
righteousness and ' blessed are they which do hunger and 
thirst after righteousness for they shall be filled.' 

2. Righteousness, as was observed before, is the image of 
God, the mind which was in Christ Jesus. It is every holy 
and heavenly temper in one ; springing from, as well as termi- 

Christopher Hopper (1788), CCCVI opinion at all upon the head ; lean 

in Works, vol. xii, he says, ' I said determine nothing at all about it. 

nothing in Bradford Church but These calculations are far above, 

what follows : That Bengelius had out of my sight. I have only one 

given it as his opinion that the thing to do — to save my own soul 

millennial reign of Christ would and those that hear me.' 
begin in the year 1836. I have no 

Upon our Lord's Sermon on the Mount : II 34^ 

nating in, the love of God, as our Father and Redeemer, and 
the love of all men for His sake. 

3. ' Blessed are they which do hunger and thirst after ' 
this in order fully to understand which expression, we should 
observe, first, that hunger and thirst are the strongest of all 
our bodily appetites. In like manner this hunger in the soul, 
this thirst after the image of God, is the strongest of all our 
spiritual appetites, when it is once awakened in the heart , 
yea, it swallows up all the rest in that one great desire, — to 
be renewed after the likeness of Him that created us. We 
should, secondly, observe, that from the time we begin to 
hunger and thirst, those appetites do not cease, but are more 
and more craving and importunate, till we either eat and 
drink, or die. And even so, from the time that we begin to 
hunger and thirst after the whole mind which was in Christ, 
these spiritual appetites do not cease, but cry after their food 
with more and more importunity , nor can they possibly 
cease, before they are satisfied, while there is any spiritual life 
remaining. We may, thirdly, observe, that hunger and thirst 
are satisfied with nothing but meat and drink. If you would 
give to him that is hungry all the world beside, all the elegance 
of apparel, all the trappings of state, all the treasure upon 
earth, yea, thousands of gold and silver ; if you would pay 
him ever so much honour, — he regards it not : all these things 
are then of no account with him. He would still say, ' These 
are not the things I want : give me food, or else I die.' The 
very same is the case with every soul that truly hungers and 
thirsts after righteousness. He can find no comfort in any- 
thing but this : he cap be satisfied with nothing else. Whatever 
you offer besides, it is lightly esteemed whether it be riches, 
or honour, or pleasure, he still says, ' This is not the thing 
which I want ! Give me love, or else I die ! ' 

4. And it is as impossible to satisfy such a soul, a soul 
that is athirst for God, the living God, with what the world 
accounts religion, as with what they account happiness. The 
religion of the world implies three things (1) The doing no 

II. 4. In Sermon II, on The account of what is here called ' the 
Almost Christian, we have the full religion of the world,' 

^4 Sermon XVII 

harm, the abstaining from outward sin ; at least from such as 
is scandalous, as robbery, theft, common swearing, drunken- 
ness : (2) The doing good, the relieving the poor , the being 
charitable, as it is called (3) The using the means of grace : 
at least the going to church and to the Lord's supper. He in 
whom these three marks are found is termed by the world ' a 
religious man.' But will this satisfy him who hungers after 
God ? No : it is not food for his soul. He wants a religion 
of a nobler kind, a religion higher and deeper than this. He 
can no more feed on this poor, shallow, formal thing, than he 
can ' fill his belly with the east wind.' True, he is careful to 
abstain from the very appearance of evil ; he is zealous of 
good works , he attends all the ordinances of God but all 
this is not what he longs for. This is only the outside of that 
religion which he insatiably hungers after. The knowledge of 
God in Christ Jesus , the life which is hid with Christ in 
God ' , the being ' joined unto the Lord in one spirit ' , the 
having ' fellowship with the Father and the Son ' , the ' walk- 
ing in the light as God is in the light ' , the being ' purified 
even as He is pure,' — this is the religion, the righteousness he 
thirsts after , nor can he rest, till he thus rests in God. 

5. ' Blessed are they who ' thus ' hunger and thirst after 
righteousness , for they shall be filled.' They shall be filled 
with the things which they long for , even with righteousness 
and true holiness. God shall satisfy them with the blessings 
of His goodness, with the felicity of His chosen. He shall 
feed them with the bread of heaven, with the manna of His 
love. He shall give them to drink of His pleasures as out 
of the river, which he that drinketh of shall never thirst, only 
for more and more of the water of life. This thirst shall 
endure for ever. 

The painful thirst, the fond desire, 
Thy joyous presence shall remove : 

But my full soul shall still require 
A whole eternity of love. 

5. The quotation is from Charles and Sacred Poems, 1742. The orig- 

Wesley's hymn entitled ' Pleading inal contains twenty-eight verses, 

the Promise of Sanctification ' Fifteen of them are in the 1876 

(Ezek. xxxvi. 23, &c), in Hymns Hymn-Book, divided into three 

Upon our Lord's Sermon on the Mount : II 345 

6. Whosoever then thou art, to whom God hath given to 
' hunger and thirst after righteousness,' cry unto Him that 
thou mayest never lose that inestimable gift — that this divine 
appetite may never cease. If many rebuke thee, and bid thee 
hold thy peace, regard them not , yea, cry so much the more, 
' Jesus, Master, have mercy on me ! ' ' Let me not live, but 
to be holy as Thou art holy ! ' No more ' spend thy money 
for that which is not bread, nor thy labour for that which 
satisfieth not.' Canst thou hope to dig happiness out of the 
earth- -to find it in the things of the world ? O trample 
under foot all its pleasures, despise its honours, count its 
riches as dung and dross — yea, and all the things which are 
beneath the sun — ' for the excellency of the knowledge of 
Christ Jesus,' for the entire renewal of thy soul in that image 
of God wherein it was originally created. Beware of quench- 
ing that blessed hunger and thirst, by what the world calls 
' religion ' , a religion of form, of outside show, which leaves 
the heart as earthly and sensual as ever. . Let nothing satisfy 
thee but the power of godliness, but a religion that is spirit 
and life , thy dwelling in God, and God in thee — the being 
an inhabitant of eternity , the entering in by the blood of 
sprinkling ' within the veil,' and sitting ' in heavenly places 
with Christ Jesus.' 

III. 1. And the more they are filled with the life of God, 
the more tenderly will they be concerned for those who are 
still without God in the world, still dead in trespasses and 
sins. Nor shall this concern for others lose its reward. 
' Blessed are the merciful for they shall obtain mercy.' 

The word used by our Lord more immediately implies the 

hymns (391-3). It is reduced to 
two hymns (548-9) in the present 
Hymn-Book. It is printed in full 
at the end of the sermon on Christian 
Perfection, No. XXXV ; and at the 
end of Fletcher's Last Check to 
Antinomianism. This verse (the 
22nd) is in the original, 

While my full soul doth still require 
Thy whole eternity of love. 

In the copy after the sermon it is 
' The whole eternity of love.' In 
the 1876 Hymn-Book it is as here ; 
the verse is omitted in the present 

III. 1. The extension of the mean- 
ing of ' merciful ' to cover the whole 
ground of love is more than justified 
by the delightful ' inset ' of the com- 
ments on 1 Cor. xiii. to which it 

346 Sermon XVII 

compassionate, the tender-hearted ; those who, far from 
despising, earnestly grieve for, those that do not hunger after 

This eminent part of brotherly love is here, by a common 
figure, put for the whole ; so that ' the merciful,' in the full 
sense of the term, are they who love their neighbours as 

2. Because of the vast importance of this love — without 
which, ' though we spake with the tongues of men and 
angels, though we had the gift of prophecy, and understood 
all mysteries, and all knowledge ; though we had all faith, so 
as to remove mountains ; yea, though we gave all our goods 
to feed the poor, and our very bodies to be burned, it would 
profit us nothing ' — the wisdom of God has given us, by the 
Apostle Paul, a full and particular account of it ; by con- 
sidering which we shall most clearly discern who are the 
merciful that shall obtain mercy. 

3. ' Charity,' or love (as it were to be wished it had been 
rendered throughout, being a far plainer and less ambiguous 
word), the love of our neighbour as Christ hath loved us, 
' suffereth long ' ; is patient towards all men it suffers all 
the weakness, ignorance, errors, infirmities, all the froward- 
ness and littleness of faith, of the children of God ; all the 
malice and wickedness of the children of the world. And it 
suffers all this, not only for a time, for a short season, but to 
the end ; still feeding our enemy when he hungers ; if he 
thirst, still giving him drink ; thus continually ' heaping coals 
of fire,' of melting love, ' upon his head.' 

4. And in every step toward this desirable end, the ' over- 
coming evil with good,' ' love is kind ' (x^o-reueTat, a 
word not easily translated) : it is soft, mild, benign. It stands 
at the utmost distance from moroseness, from all harshness or 

gives occasion. The sermon on ' Coals of fire.' Origen and the 

Charity (No. XCI) should be read as majority of commentators rather 

an introduction to these paragraphs. interpret this as meaning the burn- 

3. On the rendering ' love ' rather ing pangs of shame and remorse 

than ' charity,' see Sermon XIII, which the offender feels when good 

ii. 9 and note. is returned for evil. 

Upon our Lord's Sermon on the Mount : II 347 

sourness of spirit ; and inspires the sufferer at once with the 
most amiable sweetness, and the most fervent and tender 

5. Consequently, ' love envieth not ' : it is impossible it 
should ; it is directly opposite to that baneful temper. It 
cannot be, that he who has this tender affection to all, who 
earnestly wishes all temporal and spiritual blessings, all good 
things in this world and the world to come, to every soul 
that God hath made, should be pained at His bestowing any 
good gift on any child of man. If he has himself received 
the same, he does not grieve, but rejoice, that another par- 
takes of the common benefit. If he has not, he blesses God 
that his brother at least has, and is herein happier than 
himself. And the greater his love, the more does he rejoice 
in the blessings of all mankind , the farther is he removed 
from every kind and degree of envy toward any creature. 

6. Love ov TrepTrepeverai, — not ' vaunteth not itself ' , which 
coincides with the very next words ; but rather (as the word 
likewise properly imports), is not rash or hasty in judging , 
it will not hastily condemn any one. It does not pass a 
severe sentence, on a slight or sudden view of things : it 
first weighs all the evidence, particularly that which is brought 
in favour of the accused. A true lover of his neighbour 
is not like the generality of men, who, even in cases of the 
nicest nature, ' see a little, presume a great deal, and so 
jump to the conclusion.' No he proceeds with wariness 
and circumspection, taking heed to every step , willingly sub- 
scribing to that rule of the ancient Heathen (O where will 
the modern Christian appear !) 'I am so far from lightly 
believing what one man says against another, that I will 
not easily believe what a man says against himself. I will 
always allow him second thoughts, and many times counsel 

. 6. There is no justification for self-conceit which is spoken of in 

Wesley's rendering ; the word be- the next clause. 

longs to late Greek, and the meaning This ' ancient heathen ' was 

is ' does not play the braggart.' It Seneca. See Sermon XXV. 13. 
is the outward manifestation of the 

348 Sermon XVII 

7. It follows, love ' is not puffed up ' : it does not incline 
or suffer any man ' to think more highly of himself than he 
ought to think ' , but rather to think soberly : yea, it humbles 
the soul unto the dust. It destroys all high conceits engen- 
dering pride ; and makes us rejoice to be as nothing, to be 
little and vile, the lowest of all, the servant of all. They who 
are ' kindly affectioned one to another with brotherly love,' 
cannot but ' in honour prefer one another.' Those who, 
having the same love, are of one accord, do in lowliness of mind 
' each esteem other better than themselves.' 

8. ' It doth not behave itself unseemly ' ; it is not rude, 
or willingly offensive to any. It ' renders to all their due ; 
fear to whom fear, honour to whom honour ' , courtesy, 
civility, humanity to all the world ; in their several degrees 
' honouring all men.' A late writer defines good breeding, 
nay, the highest degree of it, politeness, ' A continual desire to 
please, appearing in all the behaviour.' But if so, there 
is none so well-bred as a Christian, a lover of all mankind. 
For he cannot but desire to ' please all men for their good to 
edification ' : and this desire cannot be hid , it will necessarily 
appear in all his intercourse with men. For his ' love is 
without dissimulation ' : it will appear in all his actions and 
conversation : yea, and will constrain him, though without 
guile, ' to become all things to all men, if by any means he 
may save some.' 

9. And in becoming all things to all men, ' love seeketh 
not her own.' In striving to please all men, the lover of 
mankind has no eye at all to his own temporal advantage. 
He covets no man's silver, or gold, or apparel he desires 
nothing but the salvation of their souls : yea, in some sense, he 
may be said, not to seek his own spiritual, any more than tem- 
poral, advantage ; for while he is on the full stretch to save 
their souls from death, he, as it were, forgets himself. He 

8. ' A late writer.' This definition appearing through the whole con- 

of politeness is quoted again in Ser- versation.' Probably it is some- 

mon C, ii. 4, as Addison's, and in a where in the Spectator, though I 

slightly different form : ' A con- have not yet dropped on it. 
stant desire of pleasing all men, 

Upon our Lord's Sermon on the Mount : II 349 

does not think of himself, so long as that zeal for the glory of 
God swallows him up. Nay, at some times he may almost 
seem, through an excess of love, to give up himself, both his 
soul and his body , while he cries out, with Moses, ' O, this 
people have sinned a great sin , yet now, if Thou wilt forgive 
their sin — , and if not, blot me out of the book which Thou 
hast written ' (Exod. xxxii. 31, 32) , or, with St. Paul, ' I could 
wish that myself were accursed from Christ for my brethren, 
my kinsmen according to the flesh ' (Rom. ix. 3). 

10. No marvel that such ' love is not provoked ' ; ov 
Trapo^vvercu. Let it be observed, the word easily, strangely 
inserted in the translation, is not in the original : St. Paul's 
words are absolute. ' Love is not provoked ' ; it is not pro- 
voked to unkindness toward any one. Occasions indeed will 
frequently occur ; outward provocations of various kinds ; but 
love does not yield to provocation , it triumphs over all. In 
all trials it looketh unto Jesus, and is more than conqueror in 
His love. 

It is not improbable that our translators inserted that 
word, as it were, to excuse the Apostle ; who, as they supposed, 
might otherwise appear to be wanting in the very love which 
he so beautifully describes. They seem to have supposed this 
from a phrase in the Acts of the Apostles, which is likewise 
very inaccurately translated. When Paul and Barnabas dis- 
agreed concerning John, the translation runs thus, ' And the 
contention was so sharp between them, that they departed 
asunder ' (Acts xv. 39). This naturally induces the reader 
to suppose, that they were equally sharp therein ; that St. 
Paul, who was undoubtedly right, with regard to the point in 
question (it being quite improper to take John with them 
again, who had deserted them before), was as much provoked 
as Barnabas, who gave such a proof of his anger, as to leave 

10. The A.V. is the only version inserts the word easily, which might 

in which the word ' easily ' is in- have been His Majesty's own.' 

serted. Adam Clarke says sarcas- On the difference between Paul 

tically, ' The translation made and and Barnabas, see note on Ser- 

printed by the command of King mon XV, ii. 5. 
James I, fol. 161 1 improperly 

350 Sermon XVII 

the work for which he had been set apart by the Holy Ghost. 
But the original imports no such thing ; nor does it affirm that 
St. Paul was provoked at all. It simply says, 'Eyevero ovv 
Trapogvo-fios,—' And there was a sharpness,' a paroxysm of 
anger , in consequence of which Barnabas left St. Paul, took 
John, and went his own way. Paul then ' chose Silas and 
departed, being recommended by the brethren to the grace of 
God ' (which is not said concerning Barnabas) , ' and he went 
through Syria and Cilicia,' as he had proposed, ' confirming the 
churches.' But to return. 

ii. Love prevents a thousand provocations which would 
otherwise arise, because it ' thinketh no evil.' Indeed, the 
merciful man cannot avoid knowing many things that are 
evil ; he cannot but see them with his own eyes, and hear 
them with his own ears. For love does not put out his eyes, 
so that it is impossible for him not to see that such things are 
done , neither does it take away his understanding, any more 
than his senses, so that he cannot but know that they are evil. 
For instance ; when he sees a man strike his neighbour, or 
hears him blaspheme God, he cannot either question the thing 
done, or the words spoken, or doubt of their being evil : yet, 
ov XoyL&Tcu to kclkqv. The word Xoyu^eraL, ' thinketh/ does 
not refer either to our seeing and hearing, or to the first and 
involuntary acts of our understanding ; but to our willingly 
thinking what we need not , our inferring evil, where it does 
not appear ; to our reasoning concerning things which we do 
not see , our supposing what we have neither, seen nor heard. 
This is what true love absolutely destroys. It tears up, root 
and branch, all imagining what we have not known. It casts 
out all jealousies, all evil surmisings, all readiness to believe 
evil. It is frank, open, unsuspicious ; and, as it cannot design, 
so neither does it fear, evil. 

12. It ' rejoiceth not in iniquity ' ; common as this is, 
even among those who bear the name of Christ, who scruple 
not to rejoice over their enemy, when he falleth either into 

1 1 . The word means ' does not down to be remembered afterwards ; 
keep account of ' ; does not set it does not register evil done to a man. 

Upon our Lord's Sermon on the Mount : II 351 

affliction, or error, or sin. Indeed, how hardly can they avoid 
this, who are zealously attached to any party ! How difficult 
is it for them not to be pleased with any fault which they 
discover in those of the opposite party, — with any real or 
supposed blemish, either in their principles or practice ! What 
warm defender of any cause is clear of these ? Yea, who is so 
calm as to be altogether free ? Who does not rejoice when 
his adversary makes a false step, which he thinks will advantage 
his own cause ? Only a man of love. He alone weeps over 
either the sin or folly of his enemy, takes no pleasure in hearing 
or in repeating it, but rather desires that it may be forgotten 
for ever. 

13. But he ' rejoiceth in the truth,' wheresoever it is found , 
in ' the truth which is after godliness ' , bringing forth its 
proper fruit, — holiness of heart, and holiness of conversation. 
He rejoices to find that even those who oppose him, whether 
with regard to opinions, or some points of practice, are never- 
theless lovers of God, and in other respects unreprovable. 
He is glad to hear good of them, and to speak all he can 
consistently with truth and justice. Indeed, good in general 
is his glory and joy, wherever diffused throughout the race 
of mankind. As a citizen of the world he claims a share in 
the happiness of all the inhabitants of it. Because he is a 
man, he is not unconcerned in the welfare of any man , but 
enjoys whatsoever brings glory to God, and promotes peace 
and good-will among men. 

14. This ' love covereth all things ' (so, without all doubt, 
irdvra o-reyei should be translated , for otherwise it would 
be the very same with irdvra v-rrofievet, ' endureth all things ') 
because the merciful man rejoiceth not in iniquity, neither 
does he willingly make mention of it. Whatever evil he sees, 
hears, or knows, he nevertheless conceals, so far as he can 

13. Rather ' rejoiceth with the N.T. in which it occurs, it rather 
truth.' ' Truth is personified, and means ' is proof against.' But there 
love and truth rejoice together ' is room for difference of opinion, 
(Robertson and Plummer). and Wesley's application of his in- 

14. The word may mean ' covereth terpretation is excellent, 
up ' ; but in the four passages in the 

352 Sermon XVII 

without making himself ' partaker of other men's sins.' Where- 
soever or with whomsoever he is, if he sees anything which he 
approves not, it goes not out of his lips, unless to the person 
concerned, if haply he may gain his brother. So far is he from 
making the faults or failings of others the matter of his conver- 
sation, that of the absent he never does speak at all, unless he 
can speak well. A talebearer, a backbiter, a whisperer, an 
evil-speaker, is to him all one as a murderer. He would just 
as soon cut his neighbour's throat, as thus murder his reputa- 
tion. Just as soon would he think of diverting himself by 
setting fire to his neighbour's house, as of thus ' scattering 
abroad arrows, fire-brands, and death,' and saying, ' Am I 
not in sport ? ' 

He makes one only exception. Sometimes he is convinced 
that it is for the glory of God, or (which comes to the same) 
the good of his neighbour, that an evil should not be covered. 
In this case, for the benefit of the innocent, he is constrained 
to declare the guilty. But even here, (i) He will not speak 
at all, till love, superior love, constrains him. (2) He cannot 
do it from a general confused view of doing good, or promoting 
the glory of God, but from a clear sight of some particular 
end, some determinate good, which he pursues. (3) Still he 
cannot speak, unless he be fully convinced that this very 
means is necessary to that end ; that the end cannot be 
answered, at least not so effectually, by any other way. 
(4) He then doeth it with the utmost sorrow and reluctance , 
using it as the last and worst medicine, a desperate remedy in 
a desperate case, a kind of poison never to be used but to 
expel poison. Consequently, (5) He uses it as sparingly as 
possible. And this he does with fear and trembling, lest he 
should transgress the law of love by speaking too much, more 
than he would have done by not speaking at all. 

15. Love ' believeth all things.' It is always willing to 
think the best , to put the most favourable construction on 

15. 'When love has no evidence, best. And when hopes are repeatedly 
it believes the best. When the disappointed, it still courageously 
evidence is adverse, it hopes for the waits ' (Robertson and Plummer). 

Upon our Lord's Sermon on the Mount ; II 353 

everything. It is ever ready to believe whatever may tend to 
the advantage of any one's character. It is easily convinced 
of (what it earnestly desires) the innocence and integrity of 
any man , or, at least, of the sincerity of his repentance, if he 
had once erred from the way. It is glad to excuse whatever 
is amiss ; to condemn the offender as little as possible ; and to 
make all the allowance for human weakness which can be done 
without betraying the truth of God. 

16. And when it can no longer believe, then love ' hopeth 
all things.' Is any evil related of any man ? Love hopes 
that the relation is not true, that the thing related was never 
done. Is it certain it was ? — ' But perhaps it was not done 
with such circumstances as are related , so that, allowing the 
fact, there is room to hope it was not so ill as it is represented.' 
Was the action apparently undeniably evil ? Love hopes the 
intention was not so. Is it clear, the design was evil too ? — 
' Yet might it not spring from the settled temper of the heart, 
but from a start of passion, or from some vehement temptation, 
which hurried the man beyond himself.' And even when it 
cannot be doubted, but all the actions, designs, and tempers 
are equally evil ; still love hopes that God will at last make 
bare His arm, and get Himself the victory , and that there 
shall be 'joy in heaven over ' this ' one sinner that repenteth, 
more than over ninety and nine just persons that need no 

17. Lastly. It ' endureth all things.' This completes the 
character of him that is truly merciful. He endureth not some, 
not many, things only ; not most, but absolutely all things. 
Whatever the injustice, the malice, the cruelty of men can 
inflict, he is able to suffer. He calls nothing intolerable , he 
never says of anything, ' This is not to be borne.' No ; he 
can not only do, but suffer, all things through Christ which 
strengtheneth him. And all he suffers does not destroy his 
love, nor impair it in the least. It is proof against all. It is 
a flame that burns even in the midst of the great deep. ' Many 
waters cannot quench ' his ' love, neither can the floods drown 
it.' It triumphs over all. It ' never faileth,' either in time 
or in eternity. 



Sermon XVII 

In obedience to what heaven decrees, 

Knowledge shall fail, and prophecy shall cease ; 

But lasting charity's more ample sway, 

Nor bound by time, nor subject to decay, 

In happy triumph shall for ever live, 

And endless good diffuse, and endless praise receive. 

So shall ' the merciful obtain mercy ' ; not only by the 
blessing of God upon all their ways, by His now repaying the 
love they bear to their brethren a thousand-fold into their own 
bosom , but likewise by ' an exceeding and eternal weight of 
glory/ in the ' kingdom prepared for them from the beginning 
of the world.' 

18. For a little while you may say, ' Woe is me, that I ' am 
constrained to ' dwell with Mesech, and to have my habitation 
among the tents of Kedar ! ' You may pour out your soul, 
and bemoan the loss of true, genuine love in the earth : lost 
indeed ! You may well say (but not in the ancient sense), 
' See how these Christians love one another ! ' these Christian 
kingdoms, that are tearing out each other's bowels, desolating 
one another with fire and sword ! these Christian armies, that 
are sending each other by thousands, by ten thousands, quick 
into hell ! these Christian nations, that are all on fire with 
intestine broils, party against party, faction against faction ! 
these Christian cities, where deceit and fraud, oppression and 
wrong, yea robbery and murder, go not out of their streets ! 
these Christian families, torn asunder with envy, jealousy, 
anger, domestic jars, without number, without end ! yea, what 

17. The quotation is from Prior's 
Charity, 31-6. The first line should 
be : 

Thus, ia obedience to what Heaven decrees. 

18. The war of the Spanish Suc- 
cession was going on from 1741 to 
1748, when it was concluded by the 
peace of Aix-la-Chapelle. England 
entered it in 1742 ; in 1743 the 
English defeated the French at 
Dettingen. In 1744 Louis XV in- 
vaded Flanders, and Frederick of 
Prussia attacked Bohemia and 

Moravia. In 1745 the British were 
defeated at Fontenoy, and the 
Young Pretender made his famous 
march from Scotland and reached 
Preston, to the great alarm of Eng- 
land. The war with France con- 
tinued till 1748. 

Wesley adopts the view that Baby- 
lon the Great in Rev. xviii means 
the Church of Rome. This was the 
common Protestant interpretation, 
though there can be no doubt that 
Pagan Rome was actually intended. 

Upon our Lord's Sermon on the Mount : II 355 

is most dreadful, most to be lamented of all, these Christian 
churches! — churches ('tell it not in Gath,' — but, alas! how 
can we hide it, either from Jews, Turks, or Pagans ?) that bear 
the name of Christ, the Prince of Peace, and wage continual 
war with each other ! that convert sinners by burning them 
alive ! that are ' drunk with the blood of the saints ' ! Does 
this praise belong only to ' Babylon the Great, the mother of 
harlots and abominations of the earth ' ? Nay, verily , but 
Reformed churches (so called) have fairly learned to tread in 
her steps. Protestant churches too know how to persecute, 
when they have power in their hands, even unto blood. And 
meanwhile, how do they also anathematize each other ! devote 
each other to the nethermost hell ! What wrath, what conten- 
tion, what malice, what bitterness, is everywhere found among 
them, even where they agree in essentials, and only differ in 
opinions, or in the circumstantials of religion ! Who follows 
after only the ' things that make for peace, and things where- 
with one may edify another ' ? O God ! how long ? Shall 
Thy promise fail ? Fear it not, ye little flock ! Against hope, 
believe in hope ! It is your Father's good pleasure yet to 
renew the face of the earth. Surely all these things shall come 
to an end, and the inhabitants of the earth shall learn righteous- 
ness. ' Nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither 
shall they know war any more.' ' The mountain of the Lord's 
house shall be established on the top of the mountains ' , and 
' all the kingdoms of the world shall become the kingdoms of 
our God.' ' They shall not ' then ' hurt or destroy in all His 
holy mountain ' , but they shall call their ' walls salvation, and 
their gates praise.' They shall all be without spot or blemish, 
loving one another, even as Christ hath loved us. — Be thou 
part of the first-fruits, if the harvest is not yet. Do thou love 
thy neighbour as thyself. The Lord God fill thy heart with 
such a love to every soul, that thou mayest be ready to lay 
down thy life for his sake ! May thy soul continually overflow 
with love, swallowing up every unkind and unholy temper, till 
He calleth thee up into the region of love, there to reign with 
Him for ever and ever ! 



On Sunday, August 26, 1739, Wesley preached on the Bowling Green 
in Bristol at a quarter to seven in the morning to a congregation of 
4,000 from ' Blessed are the peace-makers,' &c. ; and at Rose Green 
at five in the evening of the same day from Matt. v. 9-12, when he 
estimates the hearers at 5,000. He had heard Whitefield preach in the 
open air on April 1, 1739, at eight in the morning at the Bowling 
Green, and at 4.15 in the evening at Rose Green. The next day he 
followed Whitefield 's example and held his first open-air service at 
the Brickfields, taking for his text ' The Spirit of the Lord is upon 
me,' &c. The Bowling Green was near the centre of the city, and 
he regularly preached there throughout this year. Rose Green was a 
flat piece of ground on the top of a high hill about two miles out of 
Bristol amongst the collieries. Mr. H. J. Foster and Mr. H. Arnaud 
Scott have identified it as the plot marked 227 on the Ordnance Map 
sheet lxxii. 10. It was the place where Whitefield began field- 
preaching on February 17 of this year. There were heaps of refuse 
from the coal-pits scattered over the ground, one of which made an 
excellent pulpit. It is sometimes referred to simply as ' The Mount,' 
and it is not unlikely that Wesley recognized an encouraging coinci- 
dence in the name, and took special satisfaction in choosing his text 
from our Lord's Sermon on the Mount on this occasion. See Foster's 
' Bristol Notes ' in W.H.S. iii. 2. 

Blessed are the pure in heart : for they shall see God. 

Blessed are the peace-makers : for they shall be called the children of God. 

Blessed are they which are persecuted for righteousness'' sake : for theirs is 

the kingdom of heaven. 
Blessed are ye, when men shall revile you, and persecute you, and shall say 

all manner of evil against you falsely, for My sake. 
Rejoice, and be exceeding glad : for great is your reward in heaven : for 

so persecuted they the prophets which were before you. — Matt. v. 8-12. 

I. i. How excellent things are spoken of the love of our 
neighbour ! It is the ' fulfilling of the law,' ' the end of the 


Upon our Lord's Sermon on the Mount : III 357 

commandment.' Without this, all we have, all we do, all we 
suffer, is of no value in the sight of God. But it is that love 
of our neighbour which springs from the love of God : otherwise 
itself is nothing worth. It behoves us, therefore, to examine 
well upon what foundation our love of our neighbour stands ; 
whether it is really built upon the love of God ; whether we do 
' love Him because He first loved us ' ; whether we are pure 
in heart for this is the foundation which shall never be moved. 
' Blessed are the pure in heart for they shall see God/ 

2. ' The pure in heart ' are they whose hearts God hath 
' purified even as He is pure ' , who are purified, through 
faith in the blood of Jesus, from every unholy affection ; who, 
being ' cleansed from all filthiness of flesh and spirit, perfect 
holiness in the ' loving ' fear of God.' They are, through 
the power of His grace, purified from pride, by the deepest 
poverty of spirit ; from anger, from every unkind or turbulent 
passion, by meekness and gentleness , from every desire but 
to please and enjoy God, to know and love Him more and 
more, by that hunger and thirst after righteousness which 

I. par. 2. An admirable definition 
of purity of heart ; it has been un- 
fortunate, however, that in common 
parlance, and in a good deal of our 
religious literature, purity has been 
narrowed down to mean almost ex- 
clusively sexual purity. When it is 
said that a man is an impure man, 
or even that he is immoral, it is 
taken to mean that he is guilty of 
sexual indulgence. This tendency 
can be traced back to the old Gnostic 
view of the essential sinfulness of 
sexual intercourse ; and it has been 
greatly strengthened by the exag- 
gerated notion of the superior moral 
character of virginity in both sexes 
fostered by the mediaeval and modern 
Romish Church, with its false ideal 
of the monastic life and the celi- 
bacy of the clergy. The mischief is 
not that too much stress has been 
laid on the value of sexual purity — 
that is impossible ; but that other 

kinds of impurity have been lightly 
regarded, if not altogether condoned. 
Selfishness, greed, uncharitableness, 
gluttony, idleness, extravagance, 
bad temper, are just as contrary to 
purity of heart as incontinence ; 
and should be visited with just as 
much reprobation by the Church. 
That Wesley, especially in his earlier 
period, was not uninfected by the 
mediaeval conception of the superior 
sanctity of a single life is plain 
enough from his Thoughts on a Single 
Life, published in 1743 ; though he 
lays the stress of his argument, not 
on any inherent sinfulness in the 
marriage relation, but on the free- 
dom from distraction and worldly 
cares enjoyed by the single man or 
woman. And one can see the influ- 
ence of this point of view in his selec- 
tion of verses 27-32 as being the 
best illustration of verse 8. 

358 Sermon XVIII 

now engrosses their whole soul : so that now they love the 
Lord their God with all their heart, and with all their soul 
and mind, and strength. 

3. But how little has this purity of heart been regarded by 
the false teachers of all ages ! They have taught men barely 
to abstain from such outward impurities as God hath forbidden 
by name ; but they did not strike at the heart , and by not 
guarding against, they in effect countenanced, inward corrup- 

A remarkable instance of this, our Lord has given us in 
the following words : ' Ye have heard that it was said by 
them of old time, Thou shalt not commit adultery ' (verse 27) ; 
and, in explaining this, those blind leaders of the blind only 
insisted on men's abstaining from the outward act. ' But I 
say unto you, That whosoever looketh on a woman to lust after 
her hath committed adultery with her already in his heart ' 
(verse 28) ; for God requireth truth in the inward parts : 
He searcheth the heart, and trieth the reins , and if thou in- 
cline unto iniquity with thy heart, the Lord will not hear thee. 

4. And God admits no excuse for retaining anything which 
is an occasion of impurity. Therefore, ' if thy right eye offend 
thee, pluck it out, and cast. it from thee : for it is profitable 
for thee that one of thy members should perish, and not that 
thy whole body should be cast into hell ' (verse 29). If persons 
as dear to thee as thy right eye be an occasion of thy thus 
offending God, a means of exciting unholy desire in thy soul, 
delay not, forcibly separate from them. ' And if thy right 
hand offend thee, cut it off, and cast it from thee : for it 
is profitable for thee that one of thy members should perish, 
and not that thy whole body should be cast into hell ' (verse 30). 
If any who seem as necessary to thee as thy right hand be an 
occasion of sin, of impure desire , even though it were never 

4. The specific mention of the eye are repeated in Matt, xviii. 8 and 

and the hand in this connexion is Mark ix. 47 in relation to sins 

due to the fact that it is through against children. It is the awful 

sight and touch that sexual tempta- sin of corrupting the innocence oj 

tion gains its greatest strength. It * these little ones ' that our Lord 

is very significant that these verses is there denouncing ; rather than 

Upon our Lord's Sermon on the Mount : III 359 

to go beyond the heart, never to break out in word or action ; 
constrain thyself to an entire and final parting : cut them off 
at a stroke : give them up to God. Any loss, whether of 
pleasure, or substance, or friends, is preferable to the loss of 
thy soul. 

Two steps only it may not be improper to take before such 
an absolute and final separation. First, try whether the un- 
clean spirit may not be driven out by fasting and prayer, and 
by carefully abstaining from every action, and word, and look, 
which thou hast found to be an occasion of evil. Secondly, 
if thou art not by this means delivered, ask counsel of him 
that watcheth over thy soul, or, at least, of some who have 
experience in the ways of God, touching the time and manner 
of that separation ; but confer not with flesh and blood, lest 
thou be ' given up to a strong delusion to believe a lie.' 

5. Nor may marriage itself, holy and honourable as it is, 
be used as a pretence for giving a loose to our desires. Indeed, 
' it hath been said, Whosoever will put away his wife, let him 
give her a writing of divorcement ' : and then all was well ; 
though he alleged no cause, but that he did not like her, or 
liked another better. ' But I say unto you, That whosoever 
shall put away his wife, saving for the cause of fornication ' 
(that is, adultery ; the word Tropvela signifying unchastity in 
general, either in the married or unmarried state), ' causeth her 
to commit adultery,' if she marry again ' and whosoever shall 
marry her that is put away committeth adultery ' (verses 31, 32). 

do that, let a man pluck out the 
eye that gazes with foul longing on 
their fresh charm, cut 6fi the hand 
that immodestly tampers with their 
unsuspecting confidence. 

' Confer not with flesh and blood.' 
Wesley more than once misapplies 
this phrase. It means, as St. Paul 
uses it (Gal. i. 16), to consult with 
other men, instead of following im- 
plicitly the guidance of the Spirit 
of God. 

5. To ' give a loose ' is a common 
phrase in the eighteenth-century 

writers, meaning to free from all re- 

Verses 29, 30, on divorce, have 
probably been introduced here as 
an additional example of the neces- 
sity for bridling the sensual desires. 
The words appear to have been 
actually spoken on another occasion, 
as related in xix. 3 and Mark x. 1 ; 
St. Luke (xvi. 18) has a similar com- 
mand in another connexion. In the 
versions of Mark and Luke, re-mar- 
riage of a divorced person is for- 
bidden under any circumstances ; 


Sermon XVIII 

All polygamy is clearly forbidden in these words, wherein 
our Lord expressly declares, that for any woman who has a 
husband alive, to marry again is adultery. By parity of 
reason, it is adultery for any man to marry again, so long as he 
has a wife alive, yea, although they were divorced ; unless that 
divorce had been for the cause of adultery : in that only case 
there is no scripture which forbids [the innocent person] to marry 

6. Such is the purity of heart which God requires, and 
works in those who believe on the Son of His love. And 
' blessed are ' they who are thus ' pure in heart for they shall 
see God.' He will ' manifest Himself unto them,' not only ' as 
He doth not unto the world,' but as He doth not always to His 
own children. He will bless them with the clearest communi- 
cations of His Spirit, the most intimate ' fellowship with the 

in the versions in Matthew, re-mar- 
riage is permitted where the divorce 
has been made on the ground of 
adultery. The former represents the 
ideal view of marriage, as it will be 
ultimately realized in the Kingdom 
of God ; the latter is a concession 
granted, like that in the Mosaic 
law, for the hardness of men's hearts. 
In the fully realized kingdom adul- 
tery is unthinkable, and therefore 
divorce will never take place ; but 
under present conditions, where 
adultery does occur, divorce and 
subsequent re-marriage are permis- 
sible. But the modern tendency 
to make divorce and re-marriage 
easy, on such grounds as desertion, 
incompatibility of temper, cruelty, 
and the like, is clearly contrary to 
the spirit of our Lord's teaching ; 
and individual cases of hardship 
ought not to be allowed to outweigh 
the public advantage of maintaining 
the sacredness of the marriage bond. 
Malachi (ii. 15) declares that the 
divine purpose in monogamy was 
the bringing-up of children in godli- 
ness ; and the most cogent argument 

against facility of divorce is that in 
a state of society where divorce is 
easy, family life is destroyed, and 
children are robbed of their right to 
the care and oversight of their 
parents. Judicial separation need 
not be refused where it has become 
clear that no further family life is 
possible ; but even so there is no 
reason to allow re-marriage. It is 
not without significance that in both 
Matthew and Mark, our Lord's 
teaching on divorce is immediately 
followed by the incident of the bless- 
ing of the little children. The reso- 
lution of the Toronto Methodist 
Oecumenical Conference of 19 11 
(Proceedings, p. 661) sets forth the 
Methodist position. Marriage is de- 
clared to be a divine institution, 
sacred and inviolable. An emphatic 
protest is entered against ' the crime 
of easy and unjustifiable divorce ; 
and commendation is given to the 
fidelity of Methodist ministers 'in 
refusing to become partners in the 
divorce evil by performing marriage 
ceremonies for improperly divorced 

Upon our Lord's Sermon on the Mount : III 361 

Father and with the Son.' He will cause His presence to go 
continually before them, and the light of His countenance to 
shine upon them. It is the ceaseless prayer of their heart, ' I 
beseech Thee, show me Thy glory ' ; and they have the peti- 
tion they ask of Him. They now see Him by faith (the 
veil of flesh being made, as it were, transparent), even in 
these His lowest works, in all that surrounds them, in all that 
God has created and made. They see Him in the height 
above, and in the depth beneath , they see Him filling all in all. 
The pure in heart see all things full of God. They see Him in 
the firmament of heaven , in the moon, walking in brightness ; 
in the sun, when he rejoiceth as a giant to run his course. They 
see Him ' making the clouds His chariots, and walking upon the 
wings of the wind.' They see Him ' preparing rain for the 
earth, and blessing the increase of it ; giving grass for the 
cattle, and green herb for the use of man/ They see the 
Creator of all, wisely governing all, and ' upholding all things 
by the word of His power.' ' O Lord our Governor, how 
excellent is Thy name in all the world ! ' 

7. In all His providences relating to themselves, to their 
souls or bodies, the pure in heart do more particularly see 
God. They see His hand ever over them for good , giving 
them all things in weight and measure, numbering the 
hairs of their head, making a hedge round about them 
and all that they have, and disposing all the circumstances 
of their life according to the depth both of His wisdom and 

8. But in a more especial manner they see God in His 
ordinances. Whether they appear in the great congregation, 
to ' pay Him the honour due unto His name,' ' and worship 
Him in the beauty of holiness ' ; or ' enter into their closets,' 
and there pour out their souls before their ' Father which is 
in secret ' ; whether they search the oracles of God, or hear 
the ambassadors of Christ proclaiming glad tidings of salva- 
tion ; or, by eating of that bread, and drinking of that cup, 
' show forth His death till He come ' in the clouds of heaven, — 
in all these His appointed ways, they find such a near approach 
as cannot be expressed. They see Him, as it were, face to face, 


Sermon XVIII 

and ' talk with Him, as a man talketh with his friend ' a fit 

preparation for those mansions above, wherein they shall see 
Him as He is. 

9. But how far were they from seeing God, who, having 
heard ' that it had been said by them of old times, Thou shalt 
not forswear thyself, but shalt perform unto the Lord thine 
oaths ' (verse 33), interpreted it thus, Thou shalt not forswear 
thyself, when thou swearest by the Lord Jehovah : thou ' shalt 
perform unto the Lord ' these ' thine oaths ' ; but as to other 
oaths, He regardeth them not. 

So the Pharisees taught. They not only allowed all 
manner of swearing in common conversation ; but accounted 
even forswearing a little thing, so they had not sworn by the 
peculiar name of God. 

But our Lord here absolutely forbids all common swearing 
as well as all false swearing , and shows the heinousness of 
both, by the same awful consideration, that every creature is 
God's, and He is everywhere present, in all, and over all. ' I 
say unto you, Swear not at all , neither by heaven, for it is 
God's throne ' (verse 34) , and, therefore, this is the same 
as to swear by Him who sitteth upon the circle of the heavens : 
' Nor by the earth , for it is His footstool ' (verse 35) ; and 
He is as intimately present in earth as heaven : ' Neither 
by Jerusalem , for it is the city of the great King ' ; and 
God is well known in her palaces. ' Neither shalt thou swear 
by thy head ; because thou canst not make one hair white 
or black ' (verse 36) ; because even this, it is plain, is not 
thine, but God's, the sole disposer of all in heaven and earth. 

9. It is rather a tour de force to 
bring in our Lord's teaching on oaths 
under this Beatitude ; it is really a 
part of the broad question of the 
relation of the law of the Kingdom 
to the old law of Moses. But that 
may pass. As in the previous case, 
the ideal is set up, which can only be 
fully realized when the Kingdom is 
universally established. An oath is 
essentially wrong, as implying a 
double standard of truthfulness ; 

and ideally no oath, either public or 
private, is to be taken. The need 
for it is ' of the evil one,' who is still 
the Prince of this world. Hence 
under present conditions the argu- 
ments of paragraph 10 on the legi- 
timacy of taking an oath before a 
magistrate are sound ; and both our 
Lord and St. Paul complied with 
the usage of their time. But wher- 
ever the law permits it, the Christian 
man should prefer to make an affirma- 

Upon our Lord's Sermon on the Mount : III 363 

' But let your communication ' (verse 37), your conversa- 
tion, your discourse with each other, ' be, Yea, yea ; Nay, 
nay ! , a bare, serious affirming or denying ; ' for whatsoever 
is more than these cometh of evil ' : ex rod Trovrjpov £<ttiv, 
is of the evil one ; proceedeth from the devil, and is a mark of 
his children. 

10. That our Lord does not here forbid the ' swearing in 
judgement and truth,' when we are required so to do by a 
magistrate, may appear (1), From the occasion of this part of 
His discourse — the abuse He was here reproving — which was 
false swearing, and common swearing ; the swearing before 
a magistrate being quite out of the question. (2) From the 
very words wherein He forms the general conclusion : ' Let 
your communication,' or discourse, ' be, Yea, yea , Nay, nay.' 
(3) From His own example for He answered Himself upon 
oath, when required by a magistrate. When the high-priest 
said unto him, ' I adjure thee by the living God, that thou tell 
us whether thou be the Christ, the Son of God,' Jesus imme- 
diately answered in the affirmative, ' Thou hast said ' (that is, 
the truth) , ' nevertheless ' (or, rather, moreover), ' I say unto 
you, Hereafter shall ye see the Son of Man sitting on the right 
hand of power, and coming in the clouds of heaven ' (Matt. 
xxvi. 63, 64). (4) From the example of God, even the Father, 
who, ' willing more abundantly to show unto the heirs of 
promise the immutability of His counsel, confirmed it by an 
oath ' (Heb. vi. 17). (5) From the example of St. Paul, who 
we think had the Spirit of God, and well understood the mind 
of his Master. ' God is my witness,' saith he, to the Romans, 
' that without ceasing I make mention of you always in my 

tion, if only as a witness to the world 
of the eternal validity of his Master's 

' The peculiar name of God ' ; i.e. 
Jehovah, or Jahveh, as it is the pre- 
sent fashion to write it ; though it 
is a piece of pedantry to discard the 
form that has embodied itself in all 
our English literature for one which 
is after all not certainly right. 

Our Lord is only dealing with 

oaths as a confirmation of truth ; 
common swearing, i.e. the use of 
foul and blasphemous language in 
conversation, is quite another matter 
and is not in our Lord's mind here. 
' One hair, white or black.' It 
would save much popular misunder- 
standing if the order of the words 
were changed : " thou canst not 
make a single hair, whether white 
or black.' 

364 Sermon XVIII 

prayers ' (Rom. i. 9) : to the Corinthians, ' I call God for a 
record upon my soul, that to spare you I came not as yet unto 
Corinth ' (2 Cor. i. 23) : and to the Philippians, ' God is my 
record, how greatly I long after you in the bowels of Jesus 
Christ ' (Phil. i. 8). Hence it undeniably appears, that if the 
Apostle knew the meaning of his Lord's words, they do not 
forbid swearing on weighty occasions even to one another: 
how much less before a magistrate ! And, lastly, from that 
assertion of the great Apostle, concerning solemn swearing in 
general (which it is impossible he could have mentioned 
without any touch of blame, if his Lord had totally forbidden 
it) : ' Men verily swear by the greater ' , by one greater than 
themselves , ' and an oath for confirmation is to them an end 
of all strife ' (Heb. vi. 16). 

11. But the great lesson which our blessed Lord inculcates 
here, and which He illustrates by this example, is, that God is 
in all things, and that we are to see the Creator in the glass of 
every creature ; that we should use and look upon nothing as 
separate from God, which indeed is a kind of practical Atheism ; 
but, with a true magnificence of thought, survey heaven and 
earth, and all that is therein, as contained by God in the hollow 
of His hand, who by His intimate presence holds them all in 
being, who pervades and actuates the whole created frame, 
and is, in a true sense, the soul of the universe. 

II. 1. Thus far our Lord has been more directly employed 
in teaching the religion of the heart. He has shown what 
Christians are to be. He proceeds to show what they are to 
do also, — how inward holiness is to exert itself in our outward 
conversation. 'Blessed/ saith He, 'are the peace-makers, 
for they shall be called the children of God.' 

2. ' The peace-makers ' : the word in the original is 
01 elpr)vo7roioL It is well known that elprjvq, in the sacred 

11. No; this is not the great an oath to confirm the truth of a 

lesson here, though it is inciden- man's statement, 

tally taught. The great lesson is ' Glass ' means mirror, 

the temporary and imperfect con- II. 1. This widening of the sense 

dition of morality which requires of ' peace-makers ' to cover ' those 

Upon our Lord's Sermon on the Mount : III 365 

writings, implies all manner of good ; every blessing that 
relates either to the soul or the body, to time or eternity. 
Accordingly, when St. Paul, in the titles of his epistles, wishes 
grace and peace to the Romans or the Corinthians, it is as if 
he had said, ' As a fruit of the free, undeserved love and favour 
of God, may you enjoy all blessings, spiritual and temporal ; 
all the good things which God hath prepared for them that 
love Him.' 

3. Hence we may easily learn, in how wide a sense the 
term ' peace-makers ' is to be understood. In its literal mean- 
ing it implies those lovers of God and man who utterly detest^ 
and abhor all strife and debate, all variance and contention. 

and accordingTylabour with all their might, either to prevent 
J3n4s3Hj25iSJ£^^ being kindled^r, when it is kindled, from 
breaking out, or, when it is broke out, from spreading any 
farther. They endeavour to calm the stormy spirits of men, 
to quiet their turbulent passions, to soften the minds of con- 
tending parties, and, if possible, reconcile them to each other. 
They use all innocent arts, and employ all their strength, all 
the talents which God has given them, as well to preserve 
peace where it is, as to restore it where it is not. It is the 
joy of their heart to promote, to confirm, to increase, mutual 
good-will among men, but more especially among the children 
of God, however distinguished by things of smaller importance , 
that as they have all ' one Lord, one faith,' as they are all 
' called in one hope of their calling,' so they may all ' walk 
worthy of the vocation wherewith they are called , with all 
lowliness and meekness, with long-suffering, forbearing one 
another in love , endeavouring to keep the unity of the Spirit 
in the bond of peace.' 

4. But, in the full extent of the word, a peace-maker is one 
that, as he hath opportunity, ' doeth good unto all men ' ; one 
that, being filled with the love of God and of all mankind, 

who do good to all men ' sacrifices and his fellows. The Christian ideal 

the particular point of the passage is the life of perfect harmony with 

to a general application. The men the environment ; and in some sense 

who are meant are those who seek perhaps it may be argued that this 

to bring about peace (i) between includes all good things. 
God and man ; (2) between man 

366 Sermon XVIII 

cannot confine the expressions of it to his own family, or 
friends, or acquaintance, or party, or to those of his own 
opinions, — no, nor those who are partakers of like precious 
faith ; but steps over all these narrow bounds, t^at he may do 
good to"every man, that he may, some way or other; manifest "" 
his love to neighbours and strangers, friends and enemies. 
He doeth good to them all, as he hath opportunity, that is, on 
every possible occasion ; ' redeeming the time/ in order there- 
to ; buying up every opportunity, improving every hour, 
losing no moment wherein he may profit another. He does 
good, not of one particular kind, but good in general, in every 
possible way , employing herein all his talents of every kind, 
all his powers and faculties of body and soul, all his fortune, 
his interest, his reputation ; desiring only, that when his Lord 
cometh He may say, ' Well done, good and faithful servant.' 

5. He doeth good to the uttermost of his power, even to the 
bodies of all men. He rejoices to ' deal his bread to the 
hungry/ and to ' cover the naked with a garment.' Is any a 
stranger ? He takes him in, and relieves him according to 
his necessities. Are any sick or in prison ? He visits them, 
and administers such help as they stand most in need of. And 
all this he does, not as unto man ; but remembering Him that 
hath said, ' Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least 
of these My brethren, ye have done it unto Me.' 

6. How much more does he rejoice, if he can do any good 
to the soul of any man ! This power, indeed, belongeth unto 
God. It is He only that changes the heart, without which 
every other change is lighter than vanity. Nevertheless, it 
pleases Him who worketh all in all, to help man chiefl£3L. 

"man; to^ convey his ~6vm' power, and blessing, and Jove, , 
through one man to an^ther^^Therefore, although it be certain 
that, 'the help which is done upon earth, God doeth it Him- 
self ' ; yet has no man need, on this account, to stand idle in 
his vineyard. The peace-maker cannot he is ever labouring^ 
therein, and, as an instrument in God's hand, preparing the 
ground for his Master's use, or sowing the seed of the king- 
dom, or watering what is already sown, if haply God may 
give the increase. According to the measure of grace which 

Upon our Lord's Sermon on the Mount : III 367 

he has received, he uses all diligence, either to reprove the 
gross sinner, to reclaim those who run on headlong in the broad 
way of destruction , or ' to give light to them that sit in dark- 
ness,' and are ready to ' perish for lack of knowledge ' ; or to 
' support the weak, to lift up the hands that hang down, and 
the feeble knees ' ; or to bring back and heal that which was 
lame and turned out of the way. Nor is he less zealous to 
confirm those who are already striving to enter in at the strait 
gate ; to strengthen those that stand, that they may ' run with 
patience the race which is set before them ' , to build up in their 
most holy faith those that know in whom they have believed ; 
to exhort them to stir up the gift of God which is in them, 
that, daily growing in grace, ' an entrance may be ministered 
unto them abundantly into the everlasting kingdom of our 
Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ.' 

7. ' Blessed are they who are thus continually employed in 

the work of faith and the labour of love ; ' for they shall be 

'caHed,' that is, shall be (a common Hebraism), ' the children of_ 

'God.' God shall continue unto them the. Spirit of adoption, 

yea, shall pour it more abundantly into their hearts. He shall 

~bless them with all the blessings of His children. He shall 

acknowledge them as sons before angels and men ; ' and if sons, 

then heirs , heirs of God, and joint-heirs with Christ.' 

III. 1. One would imagine such a person as has been above 
described, so full of genuine humility, so unaffectedly serious, 
so mild and gentle, so free from all selfish design, so devoted 
to God, and such an active lover of men, should be the 
darling of mankind. But our Lord was better acquainted with 
human nature in its present state. He therefore closes the 
character of this man of God with showing him the treatment 
he is to expect in the world. ' Blessed,' saith He, ' are they 
which are persecuted for righteousness' sake ; for theirs is the 
kingdom of heaven.' 

7. The use of 'to be called' in III. i. ' The darling of mankind.' 

the sense of ' to be ' is not a Hebraism A reminiscence of the title given to 

specially ; it is common in Greek the Emperor Titus by Suetonius — 

from Homer downwards. ' deliciae humani generis.' 

368 Sermon XVIII 

2. In order to understand this thoroughly, let us, first in- 
quire, Who are they that are persecuted ? And this we may 
easily learn from St. Paul : ' As of old, he that was born after 
the flesh persecuted him that was born after the Spirit, even 
so it is now ' (Gal. iv. 29). ' Yea/ saith the Apostle, ' and all 
that will live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution ' 
(2 Tim. hi. 12). The same we are taught by St. John 
' Marvel not, my brethren, if the world hate you. We 
know that we have passed from death unto life, because 
we love the brethren ' (1 John iii. 13, 14). As if he had 
said, The brethren, the Christians, cannot be loved, but by 
them who have passed from death unto life. And most ex- 
pressly by our Lord ' If the world hate you, ye know that 
it hated Me before it hated you. If ye were of the world, the 
world would love his own ; but because ye are not of the 
world, therefore the world hateth you. Remember the word 
that I said unto you, The servant is not greater than his lord. 
If they have persecuted Me, they will also persecute you ' 
(John xv. 18, &c). 

By all these scriptures it manifestly appears who they are 
that are persecuted , namely, the righteous he ' that i& born 
of the Spirit ' , 'all that will live godly in Christ Jesus ' , they 
that are ' passed from death unto life ' ; those who are ' not of 
the world ' , all those who are meek and lowly in heart, that 
mourn for God, that hunger after His likeness , all that love 
God and their neighbour, and therefore, as they have oppor- 
tunity, do good unto all men. 

3. If it be, secondly, inquired, why they are persecuted, 
the answer is equally plain and obvious. It is ' for righteous- 
ness' sake ' ; because they are righteous ; because they are 
born after the Spirit ; because they will ' live godly in Christ 
Jesus ' ; because they ' are not of the world.' Whatever 
may be pretended, this is the real cause be their infirmities 
more or less, still, if it were not for this, they would be borne 
with, and the world would love its own. They are persecuted 
because they are poor in spirit ; that is, say the world, ' poor- 
spirited, mean, dastardly souls, good for nothing, not fit to 
live in the world ' ; — because they mourn ' They are such 

Upon our Lord's Sermon on the Mount : III 369 

dull, heavy, lumpish creatures, enough to sink any one's 
spirits that sees them ! They are mere death-heads ; they kill 
innocent mirth, and spoil company wherever they come ' ; — 
because they are meek : ' Tame, passive fools, just fit to be 
trampled upon ' ; — because they hunger and thirst after right- 
eousness ' A parcel of hot-brained enthusiasts, gaping after 
they know not what, not content with rational religion, but 
running mad after raptures and inward feelings ' ; — because 
they are merciful, lovers of all, lovers of the evil and unthank- 
ful ' Encouraging all manner of wickedness ; nay, tempting 
people to do mischief by impunity : and men who, it is to be 
feared, have their own religion still to seek ; very loose in 
their principles ' , — because they are pure in heart : ' Un- 
charitable creatures, that damn all the world, but those that 
are of their own sort ! Blasphemous wretches, that pretend 
to make God a liar, to live without sin ! ' — Above all, because 
they are peace-makers ; because they take all opportunities of 
doing good to all men. This is the grand reason why they 
have been persecuted in all ages, and will be till the resti- 
tution of all things : ' If they would but keep their religion 
to themselves, it would be tolerable : but it is this spreading 
their errors, this infecting so many others, which is not to be 
endured. They do so much mischief in the world, that they 
ought to be tolerated no longer. It is true, the men do 
some things well enough , they relieve some of the poor : but 
this, too, is only done to gain the more to their party ; and so, 
in effect, to do the more mischief ! ' Thus the men of the 
world sincerely think and speak. And the more the kingdom 
of God prevails, the more the peace-makers are enabled to 
propagate lowliness, meekness, and all other divine tempers, 
the more mischief is done, in their account consequently, the 
more are they enraged against the authors of this, and the 
more vehemently will they persecute them. 

4. Let us, thirdly, inquire, Who are they that persecute 
them ? St. Paul answers, ' He that is born after the flesh ' : 
every one who is not ' born of the Spirit/ or, at least, desirous 
so to be ; all that do not at least labour to ' live godly in 
Christ Jesus ' ; all that are not ' passed from death unto life/ 

370 Sermon XVIII 

and, consequently, cannot ' love the brethren ' ; ' the world,' 
that is, according to our Saviour's account, they who ' know 
not Him that sent Me ' ; they who know not God, even the 
loving, pardoning God, by the teaching of His own Spirit. 

The reason is plain : the spirit which is in the world is 
directly opposite to the Spirit which is of God. It must 
therefore needs be that those who are of the world will be 
opposite to those who are of God. There is the utmost 
contrariety between them, in all their opinions, their desires, 
designs, and tempers. And hitherto the leopard and the kid 
cannot lie down in peace together. The proud, because he is 
proud, cannot but persecute the lowly , the light and airy, 
those that mourn : and so in every other kind ; the unlikeness 
of disposition (were there no other) being a perpetual ground 
of enmity. Therefore, were it only on this account, all the 
servants of the devil will persecute the children of God. 

5. Should it be inquired, fourthly, how they will perse- 
cute them, it may be answered in general, Just in that manner 
and measure which the wise Disposer of all sees will be most 
for His glory, — will tend most to His children's growth in 
grace, and the enlargement of His own kingdom. There is 
no one branch of God's government of the world which is 
more to be admired than this. His ear is never heavy to the 
threatenings of the persecutor, or the cry of the persecuted. 
His eye is ever open, and His hand stretched out to direct 
every the minutest circumstance. When the storm shall 
begin, how high it shall rise, which way it shall point its 
course, when and how it shall end, are all determined by His 
unerring wisdom. The ungodly are only a sword of His ; an 
instrument which He uses as it pleaseth Him, and which itself, 
when the gracious ends of His providence are answered, is 
cast into the fire. 

At some rare times, as when Christianity was planted first, 
and while it was taking root in the earth , as also when the 
pure doctrine of Christ began to be planted again in our 

5. ' When the pure doctrine of tion. The ' King wise and good 
Christ began to be planted,' &c. ; i.e. beyond his years' is of course Ed- 
the time of the Protestant Reforma- ward VI. ' Those who even then 

Upon our Lord's Sermon on the Mount : III 371 

nation ; God permitted the storm to rise high, and His chil- 
dren were called to resist unto blood. There was a peculiar 
reason why He suffered this with regard to the Apostles, that 
their evidence might be the more unexceptionable. But from 
the annals of the Church we learn another, and a far different 
reason, why He suffered the heavy persecutions which arose in 
the second and third centuries ; namely, because ' the mystery 
of iniquity ' did so strongly ' work ' ; because of the monstrous 
corruptions which even then reigned in the Church : these God 
chastised, and at the same time strove to heal, by those severe 
but necessary visitations. 

Perhaps the same observation may be made, with regard 
to the grand persecution in our own land. God had dealt 
very graciously with our nation : He had poured out various 
blessings upon us : He had given us peace abroad and at home ; 
and a king, wise and good beyond his years and, above all, 
He had caused the pure light of His gospel to arise and shine 
amongst us. But what return did He find ? ' He looked for 
righteousness ; but behold a cry ' — a cry of oppression and 
wrong, of ambition and injustice, of malice, and fraud, and 
covetousness. Yea, the cry of those who even then expired in 
the flames entered into the ears of the Lord of Sabaoth. It 
was then God arose to maintain His own cause against those 
that held the truth in unrighteousness. Then He sold them 
into the hands of their persecutors, by a judgement mixed with 
mercy ; an affliction to punish, and yet a medicine to heal, the 
grievous backslidings of His people. 

6. But it is seldom God suffers the storm to rise so high as 
torture or death, or bonds, or imprisonment. Whereas His 
children are frequently called to endure the lighter kinds of 
persecution ; they frequently suffer the estrangement of kins- 
folks, the loss of the friends that were as their own soul. 

expired in the flames ' are the squandered in the enriching of those 

victims of Protestant persecution in whose lives brought disgrace on their 

Edward VI's reign, like Joan Bocher Protestant profession. The unset - 

and Van Parre. Beckett says of the tling of religious beliefs had its effect 

latter part of Edward's reign, ' The upon the social life. Some persons 

Government was corrupt. The cur- it drove to fanaticism, some to pro- 

rency was ruined. Wealth was fligacy.' 

372 Sermon XVIII 

They find the truth of their Lord's word (concerning the 
event, though not the design, of His coming), ' Suppose ye 
that I am come to give peace upon earth ? I tell you, Nay , 
but rather division ' (Luke xii. 51). And hence will natu- 
rally follow loss of business or employment, and consequently 
of substance. But all these circumstances likewise are under 
the wise direction of God, who allots to every one what is 
most expedient for him. 

7. But the persecution which attends all the children of 
God is that our Lord describes in the following words 

' Blessed are ye when men shall revile you and persecute you ' 
— shall persecute by reviling you — ' and say all manner of evil 
against you falsely, for My sake.' This cannot fail ; it is the 
very badge of our discipleship , it is one of the seals of our 
calling ; it is a sure portion entailed on all the children of God : 
if we have it not, we are bastards, and not sons straight 
through evil report, as well as good report, lies the only way 
to the kingdom. The meek, serious, humble, zealous lovers of 
God and man are of good report among their brethren , but 
of evil report with the world, who count and treat them ' as 
the filth and off scouring of all things.' 

8. Indeed, some have supposed that before the fullness of 
the Gentiles shall come in, the scandal of the cross will cease ; 
that God will cause Christians to be esteemed and loved even 
by those who are as yet in their sins. Yea, and sure it is, 
that even now He at some times suspends the contempt as well 
as the fierceness of men , ' He makes a man's enemies tp be 
at peace with him ' for a season, and gives him favour with his 
bitterest persecutors. But setting aside this exempt case, the 
scandal of the cross is not yet ceased ; but a man may say 
still, ' If I please men, I am not the servant of Christ.' Let 
no man therefore regard that pleasing suggestion (pleasing 
doubtless to flesh and blood), ' that bad men only pretend to 
hate and despise them that are good, but do indeed love and 
esteem them in their hearts.' Not so they may employ 

7. ' Falsely ' is omitted by many undue generalization, but most of 
of the Western authorities ; it was the editors accept it. 
possibly added later to avoid an 

Upon our Lord's Sermon on the Mount ; III 373 

them sometimes ; but it is for their own profit. They may 
put confidence in them , for they know their ways are not like 
other men's. But still they love them not ; unless so far as 
the Spirit of God may be striving with them. Our Saviour's 
words are express ' If ye were of the world, the world would 
love its own , but because ye are not of the world, therefore 
the world hateth you.' Yea (setting aside what exceptions 
may be made by the preventing grace, or the peculiar provi- 
dence, of God), it hateth them as cordially and sincerely as 
ever it did their Master. 

9. It remains only to inquire, How are the children of 
God to behave with regard to persecution ? And, first, they 
ought not knowingly or designedly to bring it upon them- 
selves. This is contrary both to the example and advice of 
our Lord and all His Apostles ; who teach us not only not to 
seek, but to avoid it, as far as we can, without injuring our 
conscience ; without giving up any part of that righteousness 
which we are to prefer before life itself. So our Lord ex- 
pressly saith : ' When they persecute you in this city, flee ye 
into another ' , which is indeed, when it can be taken, the 
most unexceptionable way of avoiding persecution. 

10. Yet think not that you can always avoid it, either by 
this or any other means. If ever that idle imagination steals 
into your heart, put it to flight by that earnest caution, 
' Remember the word that I said unto you, The servant is not 
greater than his lord. If they have persecuted Me, they will 
also persecute you.' ' Be ye wise as serpents, and harmless 
as doves.' But will this screen you from persecution ? Not 
unless you have more wisdom than your Master, or more 
innocence than the Lamb of God. 

Neither desire to avoid it, to escape it wholly ; for if you 
do, you are none of His. If you escape the persecution, you 
escape the blessing ; the blessing of those who are persecuted 
for righteousness' sake. If you are not persecuted for right- 
eousness' sake, you cannot enter into the kingdom of heaven. 
' If we suffer with Him, we shall also reign with Him. But if 
we deny Him, He will also deny us.' 

11. Nay, rather, ' rejoice and be exceeding glad,' when 


Sermon XVIII 

men persecute you for His sake , when they persecute you by 
reviling you, and by ' saying all manner of evil against you 
falsely ' ; which they will not fail to mix with every kind of 
persecution they must blacken you to excuse themselves : 
' For so persecuted they the prophets which were before 
you,' — those who were most eminently holy in heart and 
life , yea, and all the righteous which ever have been from the 
beginning of the world. Rejoice, because by this mark also 
ye know unto whom ye belong , and ' because great is your 
reward in heaven ' — the reward purchased by the blood of 
the covenant, and freely bestowed in proportion to your suffer- 
ings, as well as to your holiness of heart and life. ' Be 
exceeding glad ' , knowing that these ' light afflictions, which 
are but for a moment, work out for you a far more exceeding 
and eternal weight of glory.' 

12. Meantime, let no persecution turn you out of the way 
of lowliness and meekness, of love and beneficence. ' Ye 
have heard ' indeed ' that it hath been said, An eye for an 
eye, and a tooth for a tooth ' (Matt. v. 38) and your miser- 
able teachers have hence allowed you to avenge yourselves, 
to return evil for evil ' but I say unto you, That ye resist 
not evil,' — not thus ; not by returning it in kind. ' But,' 
rather than do this, ' whosoever smiteth thee on thy right 
cheek, turn to him the other also. And if any man will sue 
thee at the law, and take away thy coat, let him have thy cloak 

12. The bringing in here of verses tempt any explanation of the follow- 

38-48 is ingenious, but, like the pre- 
vious attempts to make the various 
portions of the criticism of the old 
law illustrations of the Beatitudes, 
it is rather forced. The old law 
sanctioned the lex talionis ; in the 
Kingdom of God there is no room 
for this spirit. When Wesley calls 
those who said ' An eye for an eye, 
and a tooth for a tooth ' ' your miser- 
able teachers,' he forgot that it was 
a part of the Mosaic law. See 
Exod. xxi. 23-5 ; Lev. xxiv. 20 ; 
Deut. xix. 21. Nor does he at- 

ing three examples of the new spirit, 
though it is clear that to carry them 
out literally would make human 
society under present conditions im- 
possible. They are to be regarded 
as illustrations, not as precepts. 
They are specific instances of the 
general law, ' Thou shalt love thy 
neighbour as thyself,' and their 
application must be governed by 
that law. We are to deal with our 
fellow men, not in the spirit of selfish 
insistence on our rights, but with a 
sincere willingness to surrender our 

Upon our Lord's Sermon on the Mount : III 375 

also. And whosoever shall compel thee to go a mile, go with 
him twain/ 

So invincible let thy meekness be. And be thy love suit- 
able thereto. ' Give to him that asketh thee, and from him 
that would borrow of thee turn not thou away.' Only, give 
not away that which is another man's, that which is not thine 
own. Therefore, (1) Take care to owe no man anything 
for what thou owest is not thine own, but another man's. 
(2) Provide for those of thine own household. This also God 
hath required of thee , and what is necessary to sustain them 
in life and godliness is also not thine own. Then, (3) Give 
or lend all that remains, from day to day, or from year to 
year only : first, seeing thou canst not give or lend to all, 
remember the household of faith. 

13. The meekness and love we are to feel, the kindness 
we are to show to them which persecute us for righteousness' 
sake, our blessed Lord describes farther in the following verses : 
O that they were engraven upon our hearts ! ' Ye have heard 
that it hath been said, Thou shalt love thy neighbour, and hate 
thy enemy ' (Matt. v. 43, &c.) God indeed had said only the 
former part, ' Thou shalt love thy neighbour ' ; the children 
of the devil had added the latter, ' and hate thy enemy ' ; 
' But I say unto you,' (1) ' Love your enemies' : see that 
you bear a tender good-will to those who are most bitter of 
spirit against you ; who wish you all manner of evil. (2) 

rights rather than seek revenge. 
Christ is not substituting a new set 
of precepts for the old ones, but is 
trying to inspire a new spirit which 
will make all precepts unnecessary. 
Nowhere is it truer than in regard 
to these sayings, ' The letter killeth, 
but the spirit giveth life.' Wesley 
proceeds to qualify the fourth ex- 
ample in a way which shows that he 
recognized the absurdity of any 
attempt to observe it literally. His 
sermon on the Use of Money (No. 
XLIV) should be read ; the divisions 
being (i) Get all you can ; (2) Save 
all you can ; (3) Give all you can, 

the last being qualified as in the 
present paragraph. 

13. It is not correct to say that 
the children of the devil added, 
' Thou shalt hate thine enemy.' The 
actual words are not found in the 
O.T. ; but evidently our Lord 
meant to suggest that it was a 
part of the old law ; and the way 
in which the Jews were instructed 
to treat their enemies, and the 
terms in which the prophets and 
psalmists spoke of them, show that 
hatred of one's enemies was felt to 
be as much a duty as love to one's 

376 Sermon XVIII 

' Bless them that curse you.' Are there any whose bitterness 
of spirit breaks forth in bitter words ? who are continually 
cursing and reproaching you when you are present, and 
' saying all evil against you ' when absent ? So much the 
rather do you bless : in conversing with them, use all mildness 
and softness of language. Reprove them, by repeating a 
better lesson before them ; by showing them how they ought 
to have spoken. And, in speaking of them, say all the good 
you can, without violating the rules of truth and justice. 
(3) 'Do good to them that hate you ' : let your actions show 
that you are as real in love, as they in hatred. Return good 
for evil. ' Be not overcome of evil, but overcome evil with 
good.' (4) If you can do nothing more, at least ' pray for 
them that despitefully use you and persecute you.' You can 
never be disabled from doing this ; nor can all their malice or 
violence hinder you. Pour out your souls to God, not only 
for those who did this once, but now repent ; this is a little 
thing : ' If thy brother, seven times a day, turn and say unto 
thee, I repent ' (Luke xvii. 4) , that is, if, after ever so many 
relapses, he give thee reason to believe that he is really and 
thoroughly changed , then thou shalt forgive him, so as to 
trust him, to put him in thy bosom, as if he had never sinned 
against thee at all , but pray for, wrestle with God for, 
those that do not repent, that now despitefully use thee 
and persecute thee. Thus far forgive them, ' not until seven 
times only, but, until seventy times seven' (Matt, xviii. 22). 
Whether they repent or no, yea, though they appear farther 
and farther from it, yet show them this instance of kindness , 
' that ye may be the children,' that ye may approve your- 
selves the genuine children, ' of your Father which is in 
heaven ' ; who shows His goodness by giving such blessings 
as they are capable of, even to His stubbornest enemies , 
' who maketh His sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and 
sendeth rain on the just and on the unjust.' ' For if ye love 
them which love you, what reward have ye ? do not even 
the publicans the same ? ' (Matt. v. 46) — who pretend to no 
religion , whom ye yourselves acknowledge to be without God 
in the world. ' And if ye salute,' show kindness in word or 

Upon our Lord's Sermon on the Mount : III 377 

deed to, ' your brethren,' your friends or kinsfolk, ' only ; 
what do ye more than others ? ' — than those who have no 
religion at all ? ' do not even the publicans so ? ' (Matt. v. 
47). Nay, but follow ye a better pattern than them. In 
patience, in long-suffering, in mercy, in beneficence of every 
kind, to all, even to your bitterest persecutors ; ' be ye,' 
Christians, ' perfect,' in kind, though not in degree, ' even as 
your Father which is in heaven is perfect ' (Matt. v. 48). 

IV Behold Christianity in its native form, as delivered 
by its great Author ! This is the genuine religion of Jesus 
Christ ! Such He presents it to him whose eyes are opened. 
See a picture of God so far as He is imitable by man ! a picture 
drawn by God's own hand. ' Behold, ye despisers, and won- 
der, and perish ! ' Or, rather, wonder and adore ! Rather 
cry out, ' Is this the religion of Jesus of Nazareth ? the religion 
which I persecuted ? Let me no more be found even to 
fight against God. Lord, what wouldest Thou have me to 
do ? ' What beauty appears in the whole ! How just a 
symmetry ! What exact proportion in every part ! How 
desirable is the happiness here described ! How venerable, 
how lovely the holiness ! This is the spirit of religion ; the 
quintessence of it. These are indeed the fundamentals of 
Christianity. O that we may not be hearers of it only ! — 
' like a man beholding his own face in a glass, who goeth his 
way, and straightway forgetteth what manner of man he was.' 
Nay, but let us steadily ' look into this perfect law of liberty, 
and continue therein.' Let us not rest, until every line 
thereof is transcribed into our own hearts. Let us watch, 
and pray, and believe, and love, and ' strive for the mastery/ 
till every part of it shall appear in our soul, graven there 
by the finger of God , till we are ' holy as He which hath 
called us is holy, perfect as our Father which is in heaven is 



This sermon was preached at West Street on February 3, 1747 » an d 
the substance of it no doubt was frequently given to the societies in 
London and Bristol in the course of the expositions already referred 
to. It is Wesley's criticism of the Mystic doctrine in relation to good 
works, as Sermon XII is in regard to the means of grace. It should 
be compared with the Preface to the Hymns and Sacred Poems (1739), 
where he says that some of the hymns ' were wrote upon the scheme 
of the Mystic Divines. And these, it is owned, we had once in great 
veneration, as the best explainers of the gospel of Christ. But we are 
now convinced that we therein greatly erred, not knowing the Scrip- 
tures, neither the power of God.' He proceeds to criticize their teach- 
ing as to justification, their commendation of entire seclusion from 
men (' Holy solitaries,' he exclaims, ' is a phrase no more consistent 
with the gospel than holy adulterers '), and their substitution of con- 
templation for good works. _The question Became a very practical one" 
*witK him when the Moravian quietism or ' stillness ' began to infect 
the Fetter Lane society in the autumn of 1739, and ultimately led 
to his separation from it in July 1 740 . But Richard Bell and John Bray 
kept on tintinnabulating and hee-hawing, and it was many years before 
the Methodist societies quite got rid of this pernicious leaven. He 
was deeply grieved, too, at the later mystical developments in William 
Law's teaching, which began to manifest themselves about 1733. He 
was amazed and disgusted at the absurd crudities of his physical 
speculations ; and he had no patience when he thought of the little 
divine in the_pleasant retirement of his cottage at Putney, whilst he 
himself was running from Bristol to Newcastle, preaching every, day, _ 
and on full stretch to arouse, and save, the souls* of men. And when 
in 1 74 1 Charles caught the disease, it was no wonder that he denounced 
the whole Mystical doctrine as ' this masterpiece of the wisdom from 
beneath, the fairest of all the devices wherewith Satan hath ever 
perverted the right ways of the Lord 1 ' 
4g* But in his cooler moments he was quite ready to appreciate the 


Upon our Lord's Sermon on the Mount : IV 379 

better elements of Mysticism, and to admit that its earlier exponents 
were ' men of love, experimentally acquainted with true, inward 
religion ; burning and shining lights, and such as had well deserved 
of the Church of Christ' (Sermon XII, i. 4). And when the passing 
years had mellowed him, he declares in his preface to her Life, written 
in 1776, that Madam Guyon, with all her mistakes, was ' good in an 
eminent degree.' ' So that, upon the whole,' he concludes, ' I know 
not whether we may not search many centuries to find another woman 
who was such a pattern of true holiness.' The student should read 
Prof. William James's chapter on ' Mysticism ' in Varieties of Religious 
'Experience, where its weakness and its strength are both lucidly set 
Tofth. "Both types of character, the_ active and the contemplative, 
are necessary for the completeness of the Church ; and Methodism 
has room, and a sphere of service, for both a Hugh Price Hughes and 
a William Burt Pope ; and neither hand nor eye can say to eye or 
hand, ' I have no need of thee.' 

Ye are the salt of the earth : but if the salt have lost his savour, wherewith 
shall it be salted ? it is thenceforth good for nothing, but to be cast out, 
and to be trodden under foot of men. 

Ye are the light of the world. A city that is set on an hill cannot be hid. 

Neither do men light a candle, and put it under a bushel, but on a candle- 
stick ; and it giveth light unto all that are in the house. 

Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, 
and glorify your Father which is in heaven. — Matt. v. 13-16. 

I. The beauty of holiness, of that inward man of the heart 
which is renewed after the image of God, cannot but strike 
every eye which God hath opened — every enlightened under- 
standing. The ornament of a meek, humble, loving spirit, 
will at least excite the approbation of all those who are 
capable, in any degree, of discerning spiritual good and evil. 
From the hour men begin to emerge out of the darkness 
which covers the giddy, unthinking world, they cannot but 
perceive how desirable a thing it is to be thus transformed 
into the likeness of Him that created us. This inward reli-~ 
gion bears the shape of God so visibly impressed upon it, that 
a soul must be wholly immersed in flesh and blood when 
he can doubt of its divine original. We may say of this, in 

Par. 1. The Son of God is to the the sun, or the impression of the 
Father as the rays of light are to seal on the clay to the seal itself : 

3 8o 

Sermon XIX 

a secondary sense, even as of the Son of God Himself, that 
it is ' the brightness of His glory, the express image of His 
person ' — airavyaafia tt?? Sof?;? clvtov — ' the beaming forth of 
His ' eternal ' glory ' , and yet so tempered and softened, that 
even the children of men may herein see God and live, 
yapa/cTrjp t?}? viroa-Taaeoi^ avrov — ' the character, the stamp, 
the living impression of His person,' who is the fountain of 
beauty and love, the original source of all excellency and 

2. If religion, therefore, were carried no farther than this, 
they could have no doubt concerning it , they should have no 
objection against pursuing it with the whole ardour of their 
souls. ' But why,' say they, ' is it clogged with other things ? 
What need of loading it with doing and suffering ? These are 
what damps the vigour of the soul, and sinks it down to earth 
again. Is it not enough to " follow after charity " , to soar 
upon the wings of love ? Will it not suffice to worship God, 
who is a Spirit, with the spirit of our minds, without encum- 
bering ourselves with outward things, or even thinking of 
them at all ? Is it not better, that the whole extent of 
our thought should be taken up with high and heavenly 
contemplation , and that instead of busying ourselves at all 
about externals, we should only commune with God in our 
hearts ? ' 

3. Many eminent men have spoken thus , have advised us 
' to cease from all outward action ' , wholly to withdraw from 
the world ; to leave the body behind us , to abstracLpurselves 
from all sensible things^ to have no concern at all about out- 
ward religion, but to work all virtues in the will , as the far 

the sun cannot be seen without the 
rays of light that flow from it ; the 
seal can be best interpreted from its 
impression. And it is also our func- 
tion to show forth the praises of 
Him who hath called us from dark- 
ness into His marvellous light. 

3. So Law, in Spirit of Prayer, 
Part I, p. 77 : ' Stop therefore all 
self-activity ; listen not to the sug- 
gestions of thy own reason, run not 

on in thy own will, but be retired, 
silent, passive, and humbly atten- 
tive to this new-risen light within 
thee.' Part II, p. 163 : ' Retire 
from the world, and all conversation, 
only for one month, neither write nor 
read, nor debate any thing in pri- 
vate with yourself ; stop all the 
former workings of your heart and 
mind ; and with all the strength of 
your heart, stand all this month as 

Upon our Lord's Sermon on the Mount : IV 381 

more excellent way, more perfective of the soul as well as more 
acceptable to God. 

4. It needed not that any should tell our Lord of this 
master-piece of the wisdom from beneath, this fairest of all 
the devices wherewith Satan hath ever perverted the right ways 
of the Lord ! And ! what instruments hath he found, from 
time to time, to employ in this his service, to wield this grand 
engine of hell against some of the most important truths of 
God ! — men that would ' deceive, if it were possible, the very 
elect/ the men of faith and love , yea, that have for a season 
deceived and led away no inconsiderable number of them, who 
have fallen in all ages into the gilded snare, and hardly escaped 
with the skin of their teeth. 

5. But has our Lord been wanting on His part ? Has 
He not sufficiently guarded us against this pleasing delusion ? 
Has He not armed us here with armour of proof against Satan 
' transformed into an angel of light ' ? Yea, verily : He here 
defends, in the clearest and strongest manner, the active, 
patient religion He had just described. What can be fuller and 
plainer than the words He immediately subjoins to what He 
had said of doing and suffering ? ' Ye are the salt of the 
earth : but if the salt have lost his savour, wherewith shall it 
be salted ? It is thenceforth good for nothing but to be cast 
out, and trodden under foot of men. Ye are the light of the 
world. A city that is set on an hill cannot be hid. Neither 
do men light a candle and put it under a bushel, but on a 
candlestick , and it giveth light to all that are in the house. 
Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your 
good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven.' 

In order fully to explain and enforce these important words, 
I shall endeavour to show, first, that Christianity is essentially 
a soc ial r eligioji j_and that to 'tnrnrTt~ThTb - aTsolitary one is to 

continually as you can, in this fol- love till you have this will to all 

lowing form of prayer to God.' In goodness at all times and on all 

Spirit of Love, Part I, p. 3, he says : occasions.' 

' This is the ground and original of 5. In the original it is ' the 

the spirit of love in the creature ; bushel,' ' the candlestick,' or rather 

it is and must be a will to all good- 'lamp-stand.' 

ness, and you have not the spirit of 

382 Sermon XIX 

destroy it. Secondly, that to conceal this religion is impossible, 
as well as utterly contrary to the design of its Author. I shall, 
thirdly, answer some objections ; and conclude the whole with 
a practical application. 

1. 1. First. I shall endeavour to show, that Christianity is 
essentially a social religion , and that to turn it into a solitary 
religion, is indeed to destroy it. 

By Christianity, I mean that method of worshipping God 
which is here revealed to man by Jesus Christ. When I say, 
This is essentially a social religion, I mean not only that it 
cannot subsist so well, but that it cannot subsist at all, without 
society, — without living and conversing with other men. And 
in showing this, I shall confine myself to those considerations 
which will arise from the very discourse before us. But if 
this be shown, then, doubtless, to turn this religion into a 
solitary one is to destroy it. 

Not that we can in any wise condemn the intermixing 
solitude or retirement with society. This is not only allow- 
able, but expedient ; nay, it is necessary, as daily experience 
shows, for every one that either already is, or desires to be a 
real Christian. It can hardly be, that we should spend one 
entire day in a continued intercourse with men, without 
suffering loss in our soul, and in some measure grieving the 
Holy Spirit of God. We have need daily to retire from the 
world, at least morning and evening, to converse with God, 
to commune more freely with our Father which is in secret. 
Nor indeed can a man of experience condemn even longer 
seasons of religious retirement, so they do not imply any 
neglect of the worldly employ wherein the providence of God 
has placed us. 

2. Yet such retirement must not swallow up all our time 
this would be to destroy, not advance, true religion. For, 
that the religion described by our Lord in the foregoing words 
cannot subsist without society, without our living and con- 
versing with other men, is manifest from hence, that several 
of the most essential branches thereof can have no place if 
we have no intercourse with the world. 

Upon our Lord's Sermon on the Mount : IV 383 

3. There is no disposition, for instance, which is more 
essential to Christianity than meekness. Now although this, 
as it implies resignation to God, or patience in pain and sick- 
ness, may subsist in a desert, in a hermit's cell, in total solitude ; 
yet as it implies (which it no less necessarily does) mildness, 
gentleness, and long-suffering, it cannot possibly have a being, 
it has no place under heaven, without an intercourse with 
other men : so that to attempt turning this into a solitary 
virtue is to destroy it from the face of the earth. 

4. Another necessary branch of true Christianity is peace- 
making, or doing of good. That this is equally essential 
with any of the other parts of the religion of Jesus Christ, 
there can be no stronger argument to evince (and therefore 
it would be absurd to allege any other), than that it is here 
inserted in the original plan He has laid down of the funda- 
mentals of His religion. Therefore, to set aside this is the 
same daring insult on the authority of our Great Master as to 
set aside mercifulness, purity of heart, or any other branch 
of His institution. But this is apparently set aside by all 
who call us to the wilderness ; who recommend entire solitude 
either to the babes, or the young men, or the fathers in Christ. 
For will any man affirm that a solitary Christian (so called, 
though it is little less than a contradiction in terms) canj^eji^ 
mercifuLman, — that is, one that takes every opportunity of 

doing all good to all men? What ~ can be more plain than 
that this fundamental branch of the religion of Jesus Christ 
cannot possibly subsist without society, without our living 
and conversing with other men ? 

5. ' But is it not expedient, however,' one might naturally 
ask, ' to converse only with good men, — only with those whom 
we know to be meek and merciful, holy of heart, and holy of 
life ? Is it not expedient to refrain from any conversation or 
intercourse with men of the opposite character, — men who do 
not obey, perhaps do not believe, the gospel of our Lord Jesus 
Christ ? ' The advice of St. Paul to the Christians at Corinth 

I. 4. 'Evince': 'to prove' — a 'Apparently'; i.e. obviously, as 

common use in the eighteenth cen- clearly appears, 

384 Sermon XIX 

may seem to favour this : ' I wrote unto you in an epistle not 
to company with fornicators ' (1 Cor. v. 9). And it is certainly 
not advisable so to company with them, or with any of the 
workers of iniquity, as to have any particular familiarity or 
any strictness of friendship with them. To contract or con- 
tinue an intimacy with any such is no way expedient for a 
Christian. It must necessarily expose him to abundance of 
dangers and snares, out of which he can have no reasonable 
hope of deliverance. 

But the Apostle does not forbid us to have any intercourse 
at all even with the men that know not God : ' For then,' 
says he, ' ye must needs go out of the world ' ; which he 
could never advise them to do. But he subjoins, ' If any 
man that is called a brother/ that professes himself a Chris- 
tian, ' be a fornicator, or covetous, or an idolater, or a railer, 
or a drunkard, or an extortioner ' (1 Cor. v 11) , ' now I 
have written unto you not to keep company ' with him ; ' with 
such an one no not to eat.' This must necessarily imply, 
that we break off all familiarity, all intimacy of acquaintance, 
with him. ' Yet count him not/ saith the Apostle elsewhere, 
' as an enemy, but admonish him as a brother ' (2 Thess. 
iii. 15) ; plainly showing that even in such a case as this, we 
are not to renounce all fellowship with him. So that here is 
no advice to separate wholly even from wicked men. Yea, 
these very words teach us quite the contrary. 

6. Much more the words of our Lord , who is so far from 
directing us to break off all commerce with the world, that 
without it, according to His account of Christianity, we can- 
not be Christians at all. It would be easy to show, that some 
intercourse even with ungodly and unholy men is absolutely 
needful, in order to the full exertion of every temper which 
He has described as the way to the kingdom ; that it is indis- 
pensably necessary, in order to the complete exercise of 
poverty of spirit, of mourning, and of every other disposition 
which has a place here, in the genuine religion of Jesus Christ. 
Yea, it is necessary to the very being of several of them: 
of that meekness, for example, which, instead of demanding 
' an eye for an eye, or a tooth for a tooth/ doth ' not resist 

Upon our Lord's Sermon on the Mount : IV 385 

evil/ but cause us rather, when smitten ' on the right cheek, 
to turn the other also ' ; of that mercifulness, whereby we 
' love our enemies, bless them that curse us, do good to them 
that hate us, and pray for them which despitefully use us and 
persecute us ' ; and of that complication of love and all holy 
tempers which is exercised in suffering for righteousness' sake. 
Now all these, it is clear, could have no being, were we to have 
no commerce with any but real Christians. 

7. Indeed, were we wholly to separate ourselves from sinners, 
how could we possibly answer that character which our Lord 
gives us in these very words ? ' Ye ' (Christians, ye that are 
lowly, serious, and meek ; ye that hunger after righteousness, 
that love God and man, that do good to all, and therefore 
suffer evil ; ye) ' are the salt of the earth ' : it is your very 
nature to season whatever is round about you. It is the 
nature of the divine savour which is in you, to spread to what- 
soever you touch ; to diffuse itself, on every side, to all those 
among whom you are. This is the great reason why the provi- 
dence of God has so mingled you together with other men, that 
whatever grace you have received of God may through you be 
communicated to others , that every holy temper and word and 
work of yours may have an influence on them also. By this 
means a check will, in some measure, be given to the corruption 
which is in the world ; and a small part, at least, saved from 
the general infection, and rendered holy and pure before God. 

8. That we may the more diligently labour to season all 
we can with every holy and heavenly temper, our Lord pro- 

7. The function of salt is to pre- 
serve fish or flesh from putrefaction ; 
that is, from resolution into simpler 
molecules. Flesh is made up of 
highly complex molecules ; these 
under the influence of ferments are 
split up into simpler and more primi- 
tive ones. Salt, by inhibiting the 
action of the ferments, prevents this 
breaking down. So the tendency 
of the leaven of sin is to break down 
the complex groupings of the social 
organism, and to reduce it to a 


number of selfish individuals, each 
seeking his own advantage. It is 
the presence in society of men who 
are actuated by unselfish and social 
motives that retards and tends to 
prevent this dissolution. The effect 
of saline solutions in preventing 
wounds from becoming septic has 
been very notable in the late war ; 
and they would appear to do so by 
stimulating the vital resistances. 
The parallel is suggestive. 


Sermon XIX 

ceeds to show the desperate state of those who do not impart 
the religion they have received; which indeed they cannot 
possibly fail to do, so long as it remains in their own hearts. 
' If the salt have lost his savour, wherewith shall it be salted ? 
It is thenceforth good for nothing but to be cast out, and 
trodden under foot of men ' if ye who were holy and heavenly- 
minded, and consequently zealous of good works, have no 
longer that savour in yourselves, and do therefore no longer 
season others , if you are grown flat, insipid, dead, both 
careless of your own souls, and useless to the souls of other 
men , wherewith shall ye be salted ? How shall ye be re- 
covered ? What help ? What hope ? Can tasteless salt 
be restored to its savour ? No ; ' it is thenceforth good for 
nothing but to be cast out,' even as the mire in the streets, 
' and to be trodden under foot of men/ to be overwhelmed 
with everlasting contempt. If ye had never known the Lord, 
there might have been hope, — if ye had never been ' found 
in Him ' but what can you now say to that, His solemn 
declaration, just parallel to what He hath here spoken ? 
' Every branch in Me that beareth not fruit, He/ the Father, 
' taketh away. He that abideth in Me, and I in him, bringeth 
forth much fruit/ ' If a man abide not in Me/ or do not 
bring forth fruit, ' he is cast out as a branch, and withered ; 
and men gather them,' not to plant them again, but ' to cast 
them into the fire ' (John xv. 2, 5, 6). 

9. Toward those who have never tasted of the good word, 
God is indeed pitiful and of tender mercy. But justice takes 
place with regard to those who have tasted that the Lord is 
gracious, and have afterwards turned back ' from the holy 
commandment ' then ' delivered to them/ ' For it is impossible 
for those who were once enlightened'" (Heb. vi. 4, &c.), 
in whose hearts God had once shined, to enlighten them with 

9. The reference in Heb. vi. 4 is 
to the sin of open apostasy on the 
part of the Jewish converts ; the 
deliberate public disavowal of Christ. 
As Westcott points out, the use of 
the active voice ' to renew ' limits 
the strict application of the words 

to human agency. Humanly speak- 
ing, in such a case there is no hope 
of repentance ; ' with men it is im- 
possible ; but not with God ; for 
with God all things are possible.' 
It will be remembered that this word 
was spoken with reference to a 

Upon our Lord's Sermon on the Mount IV 387 

the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ ; 
' who have tasted of the heavenly gift/ of redemption in His 
blood, the forgiveness of sins ; ' and were made partakers of 
the Holy Ghost/ of lowliness, of meekness, and of the love 
of God and man shed abroad in their hearts by the Holy Ghost 
which was given unto them ; and ' have fallen away ' — kol 
TrapairearovTas (here is not a supposition, but a flat declaration 
of matter of fact), ' to renew them again unto repentance , 
seeing they crucify to themselves the Son of God afresh, and 
put Him to an open shame. 

But that none may misunderstand these awful words, it 
should be carefully observed, (1) Who they are that are here 
spoken of , namely, they, and they only, who were once thus 
' enlightened ' ; they only, ' who did taste of ' that ' heavenly 
gift, and were ' thus ' made partakers of the Holy Ghost.' 
So that all who have not experienced these things are wholly 
unconcerned in this scripture. (2) What that falling away 
is, which is here spoken of : it is an absolute, total apostasy. 
A believer may fall, and not fall away. He may fall and rise 
again. And if he should fall, even into sin, yet this case, 
dreadful as it is, is not desperate. For ' we have an Advocate 
with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous , and He is the 
propitiation for our sins/ But let him above all things beware, | 
lest his ' heart be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin ' ; lest 1 
he should sink lower and lower, till he wholly fall away, till he j 
become as salt that hath lost its savour : for if we thus sin 
wilfully, after we have received the experimental ' knowledge 
of the truth, there remaineth no more sacrifice for sins , but a 
certain fearful looking for of judgement and fiery indignation, 
which shall devour the adversaries.' 

II. 1. ' But although we may not wholly separate ourselves 
from mankind, although it be granted we ought to season 
them with the religion which God has wrought in our hearts, 

somewhat similar case, the conver- this passage in Westcott's Hebrews. 
sion of a rich man, which our Lord In i John ii. 2 the ' our ' is in 

had just declared to be harder than obvious contrast to ' of the whole 

for a camel to go through a needle's world ' ; and the sins therefore are 

eye. See the additional note on those committed by the believer. 

388 Sermon XIX 

yet may not this be done insensibly ? May we not convey 
this into others in a secret and almost imperceptible manner, 
so that scarce any one shall be able to observe how or when 
it is done ? — even as salt conveys its own savour into that which 
is seasoned thereby, without any noise, and without being 
liable to any outward observation. And if so, although we do 
not go out of the world, yet we may lie hid in it. We may thus 
far keep our religion to ourselves , and not offend those whom 
we cannot help.' 

2. Of this plausible reasoning of flesh and blood our Lord 
was well aware also : and He has given a full answer to it in 
those words which come now to be considered ; in explaining 
which I shall endeavour to show, as I proposed to do in the 
second place, that so long as true religion abides in our hearts, 
it is impossible to conceal it, as well as absolutely contrary to 
the design of its great Author. 

And, first, it is impossible for any that have it, to conceal 
the religion of Jesus Christ. This our Lord makes plain 
beyond all contradiction, by a two-fold comparison : ' Ye are 
the light of the world : a city set upon a hill cannot be hid.' 
Ye Christians are c the light of the world,' with regard both 
to your tempers and actions. Your holiness makes you as 
conspicuous as the sun in the midst of heaven. As ye cannot 
go out of the world, so neither can ye stay in it without appear- 
ing to all mankind. Ye may not flee from men ; and while 
ye are among them, it is impossible to hide your lowliness and 
meekness, and those other dispositions whereby ye aspire to 
be perfect as your Father which is in heaven is perfect. Love 
cannot be hid any more than light ; and least of all, when it 
shines forth in action, when ye exercise yourselves in the labour 
of love, in beneficence of every kind. As well may men think 
to hide a city, as to hide a Christian ; yea, as well may they 

II. 2. As all the light in the world the burning and shining lamp, 

can be ultimately traced back to the Christ has shone upon him, and all 

energy of the sun, so all the light in that has thus been made manifest 

the Christian is the reflection of the is itself light by reflecting the light 

light that has shone upon him from that has given it its manifest colour 

the face of Jesus Christ. He is but and form. 

Upon our Lord's Sermon on the Mount IV 389 

conceal a city set upon a hill, as a holy, zealous, active lover 
of God and man. 

3. It is true, men who love darkness rather than light, 
because their deeds are evil, will take all possible pains to 
prove, that the light which is in you is darkness. They will 
say evil, all manner of evil, falsely, of the good which is in 
you , they will lay to your charge that which is farthest from 
your thoughts, which is the very reverse of all you are, and all 
you do. And your patient continuance in well-doing, your 
meek suffering all things for the Lord's sake, your calm, 
humble joy in the midst of persecution, your unwearied labour 
to overcome evil with good, will make you still more visible 
and conspicuous than ye were before. 

4. So impossible it is, to keep our religion from being seen, 
unless we cast it away ; so vain is the thought of hiding the 
light, unless by putting it out ! Sure it is, that a secret, 
unobserved religion cannot be the religion of Jesus Christ. 
Whatever religion can be concealed, is not Christianity. If a 
Christian could be hid, he could not be compared to a city set 
upon a hill ; to the light of the world, the sun shining from 
heaven, and seen by all the world below. Never, therefore, 
let it enter into the heart of him whom God hath renewed in 
the spirit of his mind, to hide that light, to keep his religion to 
himself ; especially considering it is not only impossible to 
conceal true Christianity, but likewise absolutely contrary 
to the design of the great Author of it. 

5. This plainly appears from the following words ' Neither 
do men light a candle to put it under a bushel.' As if he had 
said, As men do not light a candle, only to cover and conceal it, 
so neither does God enlighten any soul with His glorious 
knowledge and love, to have it covered or concealed, either by 
prudence, falsely so called, or shame, or voluntary humility , 
to have it hid either in a desert, or in the world ; either by 
avoiding men, or in conversing with them. ' But they put it on 
a candlestick, and it giveth light to all that are in the house ' : in 
like manner, it is the design of God that every Christian should 
be in an open point of view ; that he may give light to all 
around, that he may visibly express the religion of Jesus Christ. 

390 Sermon XIX 

6. Thus hath God in all ages spoken to the world, not only 
by precept, but by example also. He hath ' not left Himself 
without witness/ in any nation where the sound of the gospel 
hath gone forth, without a few who have testified His truth 
by their lives as well as their words. These have been ' as 
lights shining in a dark place/ And from time to time they 
have been the means of enlightening some, of preserving a 
remnant, a little seed which was ' counted unto the Lord for 
a generation.' They have led a few poor sheep out of the 
darkness of the world, and guided their feet into the way of 

7. One might imagine that, where both Scripture and the 
reason of things speak so clearly and expressly, there could 
not be much advanced on the other side, at least not with any 
appearance of truth. But they who imagine thus know little 
of the depths of Satan. After all that Scripture and reason 
have said, so exceeding plausible are the pretences for solitary 
religion, for a Christian's going out of the world, or at least 
hiding himself in it, that we need all the wisdom of God to see 
through the snare, and all the power of God to escape it ; so 
many and strong are the objections which have been brought 
against being social, open, active Christians. 

III. 1. To answer these, was the third thing which I pro- 
posed. And, first, it has been often objected, that religion 
does not lie in outward things, but in the heart, the inmost 
soul , that it is the union of the soul with God, the life of God 
in the soul of man ; that outside religion is nothing worth , 
seeing God ' delighteth not in burnt-offerings/ in outward 
services, but a pure and holy heart is the ' sacrifice He will not 

I answer, It is most true, that the root of religion lies in 
the heart, in the inmost soul , that this is the union of the soul 
with God, the life of God in the soul of man. But if this root 
be really in the heart, it cannot but put forth branches. And 
these are the several instances of outward obedience, which 
partake of the same nature with the root ; and, consequently, 
are not only marks or signs, but substantial parts, of religion. 

Upon our Lord's Sermon on the Mount IV 391 

It is also true, that bare outside religion, which has no root 
in the heart, is nothing worth , that God delighteth not in such 
outward services, no more than in Jewish burnt-offerings ; 
and that a pure and holy heart is a sacrifice with which He is 
always well pleased. But He is also well pleased with all 
that outward service which arises from the heart ; with the 
sacrifice of our prayers (whether public or private), of our 
praises and thanksgivings , with the sacrifice of our goods, 
humbly devoted to Him, and employed wholly to His glory ; 
and with that of our bodies, which He peculiarly claims, 
which the Apostle beseeches us, 'by the mercies of God, 
to present unto Him, a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable 
unto God.' 

2. A second objection, nearly related to this, is, that love 
is all in all ; that it is ' the fulfilling of the law,' ' the end of 
the commandment,' of every commandment of God ; that all 
we do, and all we suffer, if we have not charity or love, profiteth 
us nothing ; and therefore the Apostle directs us to ' follow 
after charity/ and terms this ' the more excellent way.' 

I answer, It is granted, that the love of God and man, 
arising from faith unfeigned, is all in all, the fulfilling of the 
law, the end of every commandment of God. It is true, that 
without this, whatever we do, whatever we suffer, profits us 
nothing. But it does not follow, that love is all in such a 
sense as to supersede either faith or good works. It is ' the^ 
fulfilling of the law,' not by releasing us from but by constrain- 
ing us to obey it. It is ' the end of the commandment,' as 
every commandment leads to and centres in it. It is allowed, 
that whatever we do or suffer without love profits us nothing : 
but withal, whatever we do or suffer in love, though it were only 
the suffering reproach for Christ, or the giving a cup of cold 
water in His name, it shall in no wise lose its reward. 

3. ' But does not the Apostle direct us to " follow after 
charity " ? And does he not term it " a more excellent way " ? ' 
— He does direct us to ' follow after charity ' ; but not after 
that alone. His words are, ' Follow after charity, and desire 
spiritual gifts ' (1 Cor. xiv. 1). Yea, ' follow after charity ' ; 
and desire to spend and be spent for your brethren. ' Follow 

392 Sermon XIX 

after charity ' ; and, as you have opportunity, do good to 
all men. 

In the same verse wherein he terms this, the way of love, 
' a more excellent way/ he directs the Corinthians to desire 
other gifts beside it , yea, to desire them earnestly. ' Covet 
earnestly,' saith he, ' the best gifts ; and yet I show unto you 
a more excellent way ' (i Cor. xii. 31). More excellent than 
what ? Than the gifts of healing, of speaking with tongues, 
and of interpreting, mentioned in the preceding verses ; but 
not more excellent than the way of obedience. Of this the 
Apostle is not speaking , neither is he speaking of outward 
religion at all so that this text is quite wide of the present 

But suppose the Apostle had been speaking of outward as 
well as inward religion, and comparing them together ; sup- 
pose, in the comparison, he had given the preference ever so 
much to the latter ; suppose he had preferred (as he justly 
might) a loving heart, before all outward works whatever ; 
yet it would not follow that we were to reject either one or the 
other. No , God hath joined them together from the beginning 
of the world , and let not man put them asunder. 

4. ' But " God is a Spirit ; and they that worship Him, 
must worship Him in spirit and in truth." And is not this 
enough ? Nay, ought we not to employ the whole strength 
of our mind herein ? Does not attending to outward things 
clog the soul, that it cannot soar aloft in holy contemplation ? 
Does it not damp the vigour of our thought ? Has it not a 
natural tendency to encumber and distract the mind ? Where- 
as St. Paul would have us to be " without carefulness," and to 
" wait upon the Lord without distraction." ' 

I answer, ' God is a Spirit ; and they that worship Him, 
must worship Him in spirit and in truth.' Yea, and this is 
enough : we ought to employ the whole strength of our mind 
therein. But then I would ask, What is it to worship God, a 
Spirit, in spirit and in truth ? Why, it is to worship Him 
with our spirit ; to worship Him in that manner which none 
but spirits are capable of. It is to believe in Him, as a wise, 
just, holy Being, of purer eyes than to behold iniquity ; and 

Upon our Lord's Sermon on the Mount IV 393 

yet merciful, gracious, and longsuffering ; forgiving iniquity, 
and transgression, and sin ; casting all our sins behind His 
back, and accepting us in the Beloved. It is, to love Him, to 
delight in Him, to desire Him, with all our heart, and mind, 
and soul, and strength ; to imitate Him we love, by purifying 
ourselves even as He is pure ; and to obey Him whom we love, 
and in whom we believe, both in thought, and word, and work. 
Consequently, one branch of the worshipping God in spirit 
and in truth is, the keeping His outward commandments. To 
glorify Him, therefore, with our bodies as well as with our 
spirits , to go through outward work with hearts lifted up to 
Him ; to make our daily employment a sacrifice to God , to buy 
and sell, to eat and drink, to His glory, — this is worshipping 
God in spirit and in truth, as much as the praying to Him in 
a wilderness. 

5. But if so, then contemplation is only one way of worship- 
ping God in spirit and in truth. Therefore to give ourselves 
up entirely to this, would be to destroy many branches of 
spiritual worship, all equally acceptable to God, and equally 
profitable, not hurtful, to the soul. For it is a great mistake, 
to suppose that an attention to those outward things, whereto 
the providence of God hath called us, is any clog to a Christian, 
or any hindrance at all to his always seeing Him that is invisible. 
It does not at all damp the ardour of his thought , it does not 
encumber or distract his mind ; it gives him no uneasy or 
hurtful care, who does it all as unto the Lord , who hath 
learned, whatsoever he doeth in word or deed, to do all in the 
name of the Lord Jesus , having only one eye of the soul, 
which moves round on outward things, and one immovably 
fixed on God. Learn what this meaneth, ye poor recluses, 

III. 5. Wesley was a little lacking 
in humour, though he had wit enough 
and to spare ; otherwise he could 
not have perpetrated the extra- 
ordinary figure of a man ' having 
only one eye of the soul which moves 
round on outward things, and one 
immovably fixed on God ' 1 

The quotation is the third verse 
of Charles Wesley's hymn ' For a 

Believer in Worldly Business,' No. 6 
in Hymns for those that Seek and 
those that have Redemption (1747). 
It is, with one verse omitted, Hymn 
587 in the Methodist Hymn-Book. 
' Lift ' is clearly the infinitive governed 
by ' dost ' ; not the imperative. 
There should be a comma, as in the 
original, after ' multitudes.' 

394 Sermon XIX 

that you may clearly discern your own littleness of faith : 
yea, that you may no longer judge others by yourselves, go 
and learn what that meaneth, — 

Thou, O Lord, in tender love, 

Dost all my burdens bear ; 
Lift my heart to things above, 

And fix it ever there. 
Calm on tumult's wheel I sit ; 

'Midst busy multitudes alone ; 
Sweetly waiting at Thy feet, 

Till all Thy will be done. 

6. But the grand objection is still behind. ' We appeal,' 
say they, ' to experience. Our light did shine ; we used out- 
ward things many years , and yet they profited nothing. We 
attended on all the ordinances , but we were no better for it , 
nor indeed any one else : nay, we were the worse ; for we 
fancied ourselves Christians for so doing, when we knew not 
what Christianity meant.' 

I allow the fact : I allow that you and ten thousand more 
have thus abused the ordinances of God , mistaking the 
means for the end , supposing that the doing these, or some 
other outward works, either was the religion of Jesus Christ, 
or would be accepted in the place of it. But let the abuse be 
taken away, and the use remain. Now use all outward things, 
but use them with a constant eye to the renewal of your soul 
in righteousness and true holiness. 

7. But this is not all : they affirm, ' Experience likewise 
shows, that the trying to do good is but lost labour. What 
does it avail to feed or clothe men's bodies, if they are just 
dropping into everlasting fire ? And what good can any man 
do to their souls ? If these are changed, God doeth it Himself. 
Besides, all men are either good, at least desirous so to be, 
or obstinately evil. Now the former have no need of us ; 
let them ask help of God, and it shall be given them : and the 
latter will receive no help of us. Nay, and our Lord forbids 
to " cast our pearls before swine." ' 

I answer, (1) Whether they will finally be lost or saved, 
you are expressly commanded to feed the hungry, and clothe 

Upon our Lord's Sermon on the Mount. IV 395 

the naked. If you can, and do not, whatever becomes of 
them, you shall go away into everlasting fire. (2) Though it 
is God only changes hearts, yet He generally doeth it by man. 
It is our part to do all that in us lies, as diligently as if we could 
change them ourselves, and then to leave the event to Him. 
(3) God, in answer to their prayers, builds up His children 
by each other in every good gift , nourishing and strengthening 
the whole ' body by that which every joint supplieth.' So 
that ' the eye cannot say to the hand, I have no need of thee ' , 
no, nor even ' the head to the feet, I have no need of you.' 
Lastly. How are you assured, that the persons before you 
are dogs or swine ? Judge them not, until you have tried. 
' How knowest thou, O man, but thou mayest gain thy brother ' 
— but thou mayest, under God, save his soul from death ? 
When he spurns thy love, and blasphemes the good word, 
then it is time to give him up to God. 

8. ' We have tried ; we have laboured to reform sinners , 
and what did it avail ? On many we could make no impres- 
sion at all : and if some were changed for a while, yet their 
goodness was but as the morning dew, and they were soon as 
bad, nay, worse than ever so that we only hurt them, and 
ourselves too , for our minds were hurried and discomposed, 
— perhaps filled with anger instead of love : therefore, we had 
better have kept our religion to ourselves.' 

It is very possible this fact also may be true , that you 
have tried to do good, and have not succeeded, yea, that 
those who seemed reformed, relapsed into sin, and their last 
state was worse than the first. And what marvel? Is the 
servant above his. Master ? But how often did He strive to 
save sinners, and they would not hear , or, when they had 
followed Him awhile, they turned back as a dog to his vomit ! 
But He did not therefore desist from striving to do good : no 
more should you, whatever your success be. Jftjs your part 
to do as you are commanded : th e event is in the hand of God^ 
^ou~are~not accountable for this leave it to Him, who orders 
all things "well. ' In Ihe'morning^sow thy seed, and in the 
evening withhold not thy hand : for thou knowest not whether 
shall prosper ' (Eccles. xi. 6). 

396 Sermon XIX 

But the trial hurries and frets your own soul. Perhaps it 
did so for this very reason, you_ thought you was"" 
accountable" for the event, which no man is, nor indeed can 
"be; or perhaps, because you was off your guard — youTwas" 
not watchful over your own spirit. But this is no reason for 
disobeying God. Try again : but try more warily than before. 
Do good (as you forgive) ' not seven times only, but until 
seventy times seven.' Only be wiser by experience : attempt 
it every time more cautiously than before. Be more humbled 
before God, more deeply convinced that of yourself you can do , 
nothing. Be more jealous over your own spirit , more gentle, 
and watchful unto prayer. Thus ' cast your bread upon the 
waters, and you shall find it again after many days.' 

IV 1. Notwithstanding all these plausible pretences for 
hiding it, ' let your light so shine before men, that they may 
see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in 
heaven.' This is the practical application which our Lord 
Himself makes of the foregoing considerations. 

' Let your light so shine,' — your lowliness of heart , your 
gentleness, and meekness of wisdom , your serious, weighty 
concern for the things of eternity, and sorrow for the sins 
and miseries of men , your earnest desire of universal holiness, 
and full happiness in God ; your tender goodwill to all man- 
kind, and fervent love to your supreme Benefactor. ^ErAdeav- 
our not to conceal this light, wherewit h God h ath enHghtejieiL 
your soufj^uFlet it shine before men, before all with whom 
you are, in the whole tenor of your conversation. Let it 
shine still more eminently in your actions, in your doing all 
possible good to all men ; and in your suffering for righteous- 
ness' sake, while you ' rejoice and are exceeding glad,' knowing 
that ' great is your reward in heaven.' 

2. ' Let your light so shine before men, that they may see 
your good works,' — so far let a Christian be from ever designing 
or desiring to conceal his religion ! On the contrary, let it be 
your desire, not to conceal it , not to put the light under a 
bushel. Let it be your care to place it ' on a candlestick, 
that it may give light to all that are in the house.' Only take 

Upon our Lord's Sermon on the Mount IV 397 

heed, not to seek your own praise herein, not to desire any 
honour to yourselves. But let it be your sole aim, that all 
who see your good works may ' glorify your Father which 
is in heaven/ 

3. Be this your one ultimate end in all things. With this 
view, be plain, open, undisguised. Let your love be without 
dissimulation why should you hide fair, disinterested love ? 
Let there be no guile found in your mouth : let your words be 
the genuine picture of your heart. Let there be no darkness 
or reservedness in your conversation, no disguise in your 
behaviour. Leave this to those who have other designs in 
view , designs which will not bear the light. Be ye artless 
and simple to all mankind ; that all may see the grace of God 
which is in you. And although some will harden their hearts, 
yet others will take knowledge that ye have been with Jesus, 
and, by returning themselves to the great Bishop of their 
souls, ' glorify your Father which is in heaven.' 

4. With this one design, that men may glorify God in you, 
go on in His name, and in the power of His might. Be not 
ashamed even to stand alone, so it be in the ways of God. 
Let the light which is in your heart shine in all good works, 
both works of piety and works of mercy. ,And in order to 
enlarge your ability of doing good, renounce all superfluitiesr 
Cut off alt unnecessary expense in food, in furniture, in apparel^ 

"Be a good steward of every gift of God, even of these His 
lowest gifts. Cut off all unnecessary expense of time, all 
needless or useless employments ; and ' whatsoever thy 
hand findeth to do, do it with thy might.' In a word, be thou 
full of faith and love ; do good , suffer evil. And herein be 
thou ' steadfast, unmovable ' ; yea, ' always abounding in 
the work of the Lord ; forasmuch as thou knowest that thy 
labour is not in vain in the Lord.' 

IV. 3. In his letter to the Mor- many cases ? Are you not of a close, 

avian Church, September 1738, Wes- dark, reserved temper and be- 

ley asks them, ' Do you not use haviour ? ' 
cunning, guile, or dissimulation in 



On May 15, 1739, the Journal records : ' As I was expounding in the 
Back Lane on the righteousness of the Scribes and Pharisees, many 
who had before been righteous in their own eyes abhorred themselves 
as in dust and ashes. But two, who seemed to be more deeply con- 
vinced than the rest, did not long sorrow as men without hope, but 
found in that hour that they had " an advocate with the Father, Jesus 
Christ the righteous." ' Back Lane lies in the eastern part of Bristol, 
between Jacob Street and Old Market Street. Wesley had preached 
there for the first time on Tuesday, April 17, 1739. The service was 
held in an upper room ; and on that occasion the weight of the con- 
gregation made the floor give way ; but it did not sink far, and the 
sermon was duly concluded. This sermon is also recorded as preached 
at Redriff (or Rotherhithe) on July 11, 1740 ; and the text, Matt. v. 20, 
is set down half a dozen times in the sermon list between 1747 and 
1759. The favourite sermon on the Pharisee and the Publican was 
no doubt much on the same lines as the latter part of this discourse. 

Think not that I am come to destroy the Law, or the Prophets : I am not 

come to destroy, but to fulfil. 
For verily I say unto you, Till heaven and earth pass, one jot or one tittle 

shall in no wise pass from the law, till all be fulfilled. 
Whosoever therefore shall break one of these least commandments, and shall 

teach men so, he shall be called the least in the kingdom of heaven : 

but whosoever shall do and teach them, the same shall be called great 

in the kingdom of heaven. 
For I say unto you, That except your righteousness shall exceed the 

righteousness of the Scribes and Pharisees, ye shall in no case enter 

into the kingdom of heaven. — Matt. v. 17-20. 

i. Among the multitude of reproaches which fell upon Him 
who ' was despised and rejected of men,' it could not fail 


Upon our Lord's Sermon on the Mount : V 399 

to be one, that He was a teacher of novelties, an introducer 
of a new religion. This might be affirmed with the more colour, 
because many of the expressions He had used were not common 
among the Jews : either they did not use them at all, or not 
in the same sense, not in so full and strong a meaning. Add to 
this, that the worshipping God ' in spirit and in truth ' must 
always appear a new religion to those who have hitherto 
known nothing but outside worship, nothing but the ' form of 

2. And it is not improbable, some might hope it was so ; 
that He was abolishing the old religion, and bringing in another 
— one which, they might flatter themselves, would be an 
easier way to heaven. But our Lord refutes, in these words, 
both the vain hopes of the one, and the groundless calumnies 
of the other. 

I shall consider them in the same order as they lie, taking 
each verse for a distinct head of discourse. 

I. 1. And first, ' Think not that I am come to destroy the 
Law, or the Prophets : I am not come to destroy, but to 

The ritual or ceremonial law, delivered by Moses to the 
children of Israel, containing all the injunctions and ordinances 
which related to the old sacrifices and service of the temple, 
our Lord indeed did come to destroy, to dissolve, and utterly 
abolish. To this bear all the Apostles witness , not only 

I. par. 1. The view taken in this 
and the following paragraph needs 
some correction. The ceremonial 
law was not only ' designed for a 
temporary restraint, ' but was typical 
and prophetic. These regulations 
were, as St. Paul says (Col. ii. 17), 
' a shadow of the things to come.' 
Now, every shadow is cast by a sub- 
stance, or body, with which it 
corresponds, and that body was 
" of Christ.' The altar of sacrifice 
was a shadow of the Cross, the 
Temple a shadow of the Church, the 

Passover a shadow of the Lord's 
Supper, Circumcision a shadow of 
Baptism, and so on. These laws are 
a part of the Scripture which bore 
witness to Christ ; and He came, not 
to ' destroy, dissolve, and utterly 
abolish,' but to fulfil them. They 
were only destroyed by Him as the 
bud is destroyed by the flower or 
the child by the man. The shadow 
is superseded by the substance, but 
it has a relation to it which is often 
most helpful and illuminating. 

400 Sermon XX 

Barnabas and Paul, who vehemently withstood those who 
taught that Christians ought ' to keep the law of Moses ' 
(Acts xv- 5) , not only St. Peter, who termed the insisting 
on this, on the observance of the ritual law, a ' tempting God,' 
and ' putting a yoke upon the neck of the disciples, which 
neither our fathers/ saith he, ' nor we, were able to bear ' , 
but all the Apostles, elders, and brethren, being assembled 
with one accord (verse 22), declared, that to command them 
to keep this law, was to ' subvert their souls ' , and that ' it 
seemed good to the Holy Ghost ' and to them, to lay no such 
burden upon them (verse 28). This ' hand- writing of ordin- 
ances our Lord did blot out, take away, and nail to His 

2. But the moral law, contained in the Ten Commandments, 
and enforced by the prophets, He did not take away. It 
was not the design of His coming to revoke any part of this. 
This is a law which never can be broken, which ' stands fast 
as the faithful witness in heaven.' The moral stands on an 
entirely different foundation from the ceremonial or ritual 
law, which was only designed for a temporary restraint upon 
a disobedient and stiffnecked people , whereas this was from 
the beginning of the world, being ' written not on tables of 
stone,' but on the hearts of all the children of men, when they 
came out of the hands of the Creator. And, however the letters 
once wrote by the finger of God are now in a great measure 
defaced by sin, yet can they not wholly be blotted out, while 
we have any consciousness of good and evil. Every part of 
this law must remain in force upon all mankind, and in all 
ages , as not depending either on time or place, or any other 
circumstances liable to change, but on the nature of God, and 
the nature of man, and their unchangeable relation to each 

3. ' I am not come to destroy, but to fulfil.' Some have 

2. ' The moral law He did not Jewish dispensation, and that the 

take away.' A more exact state- moral law itself, though it could 

ment of the relation of Christianity never pass away, yet henceforward 

to the moral law will be found in stood on a different foundation. 

Sermon XXIX, 3, where it is shown See note on iii. 7 below, 
that Christianity set aside the 

Upon our Lord's Sermon on the Mount: V 401 

conceived our Lord to mean, I am come to fulfil this, by My 
entire and perfect obedience to it. And it cannot be doubted 
but He did, in this sense, fulfil every part of it. But this does 
not appear to be what He intends here, being foreign to the 
scope of His present discourse. Without question, His meaning 
in this place is (consistently with all that goes before and 
follows after), I am come to establish it in its fullness, in spite 
of all the glosses of men : I am come to place in a full and 
clear view whatsoever was dark or obscure therein I am 
come to declare the true and full import of every part of it , 
to show the length and breadth, the entire extent, of every 
commandment contained therein, and the height and depth, 
the inconceivable purity and spirituality of it in all its branches. 
4. And this our Lord has abundantly performed in the 
preceding and subsequent parts of the discourse before us ; in 
which He has not introduced a new religion into the world, 
but the same which was from the beginning, — a religion, the 
substance of which is, without question, as old as the creation, 
being coeval with man, and having proceeded from God at the 
very time when ' man became a living soul ' (the substance, I 
say ; for some circumstances of it now relate to man as a fallen